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Tips for Approaching Music Publishing Companies

Allow me to set the stage.

You’ve been producing artists and making beats for several years. You consider yourself a seasoned vet. You’ve put out so many records that it’s hard to keep track. You have a decent project studio at home, and a DAW that you know inside and out to create music. You have all the right VSTs, plugins and hardware to create a track from beginning to end fairly quickly. You have the ability to mix and master on a professional level, and can achieve a polished, refined sound that is comparable to what you hear on the radio.

Being a composer for TV is like being a chef. You have to be edgy, fresh and inspiring. On the other hand, you need to be extremely quick and consistent with every plate you dish out without compromising your integrity. Remember, the music publishing game, on a high level, requires the composer to create many high quality tracks as fast as possible within tight deadlines.

The kind of food you cook really depends on the type of restaurant you cook for. Let’s say that the restaurant is your music publisher and the people coming to the restaurant are your TV shows. Now, try to think of all those shows people love to sit around and watch for hours on end — “Life of Kylie,” “Road Rules,” “Access Hollywood,” “Ellen,” “Shark Tank,” and “Survivor” just to name a few. The possibilities are endless.

Now, let’s start with step one of how to approach music publishing companies.

1. Put Your Music on a Website

If you’ve been producing for some time, you understand that people need to go somewhere physically or virtually to listen to your work. Back in the day, we used to make CDs of our five best tracks and called them demos. Today, everything is online. This means that your music should be easily accessible, in some form, on a website.

There are websites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp where you can upload your music for free. If you want to go one step further, you can place your music on your own website which you can easily create through Wix, Squarespace, or countless other platforms. This is the most professional route, but Soundcloud has become an acceptable medium to share your music.

2. Create a Playlist

Next, let’s talk about the playlist. The playlist on your website or Soundcloud should represent your best work. Don’t worry about format. We’ll talk about that in a different article. If you produced a country track that you thought was pretty cool five years ago for your friend’s girlfriend, you should probably leave that one out.

If you don’t know what you’re good at, ask your close friends after a few drinks at the bar for their honest opinion. People love to give feedback after a little bit of truth serum. Better yet, if you’ve been collaborating with recording artists — what style of music do they come to you for? Do they want to sing on your EDM-style tracks, or do you get hit up by a lot of hip-hop artists to drop some nasty bars on your beats? This should give you an idea of what you’re good at.

Once you’ve gathered your top ten, narrow it down to five, and then throw it on the list.

What’s great about Soundcloud is that you can create a private playlist. If you have other content on the site and want to have a playlist just for music publishers — this is the way to go.

3. Start Looking Online

It’s time to start reaching out to music publishers and licensing companies, but which ones do you approach?

Start with Google. Type in keywords like, “music publishing companies,” “music licensing companies,” and “music publishers.”

You need to look for words like accepting demos, or accepting unsolicited demos. Pay careful attention to how these companies want you to submit.

The biggest complaint I hear from publishers is that producers and composers do not follow directions. Some publishers might want you to send an email with a link to your music. Other publishers might want you to send three tracks, which are to be uploaded via their website. All I’m saying is that following directions can go long way.

4. Be Professional

Before you start firing away, draft yourself an email that you can send in mass with confidence. Think of it like a cover letter when you’re looking for places to find work. Keep it short and sweet. Briefly tell them who you are, what you do, and what it is you’re looking for.

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Think about it: these publishing companies receive hundreds of emails every day. Don’t write a 10-page essay; five to six sentences should be plenty.

No grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, please. Have you heard the phrase, “you can only make a first impression once”?

People are judgmental, and will quickly decide if you’re willing to work with within the first five seconds of just reading your email. They don’t even have to listen to your music to know if you’re going to be a headache to work with or not. If you can’t even communicate effectively in an email, that translates into you not being able to follow strict compositional or submission guidelines consistently.

5. Don’t Apply to Every Music Publishing Company

Here’s some word of advice: do not apply to every publishing company known to man.

The problem with this shotgun technique is that, if you get interest from your initial email, the company will listen to your music. If they like what they hear, they are going to want music from you to place in their library.

If you’re a composer, there’s a chance that multiple publishing companies are going to want music from you. This is where you can run into a good problem. However, if you don’t have enough material to hand over to the companies, they’re not going to wait around for you to submit music. You might have lost their interest because they’ve decided that you’re not capable of creating enough content.

6. You Have to Back it Up

Another complaint I hear from publishers is that there are a lot of composers that flake out. Some composers can talk a big game, but can’t actually back it up. If you’re the kind of producer that makes a few tracks a year because you’re a perfectionist — this gig is definitely not for you. You need to pump out tracks like your life depends on it, especially when you get a request from the publisher for a specific show.

This is just my approach to reaching out to music licensing companies. There is more than one way. If you don’t know anyone in the industry, this might be your best bet, however if you have a few buddies you can reach out to that are already writers, that could be another option.

Let’s say you have a friend that is a music supervisor, you can reach out to him directly and ask if he’s in need of a certain style of music for the show or movie that he’s working on. You can also be a co-writer for a composer who is established with ties to publishing companies. That would be one of the quickest ways to establish yourself as a legit composer.

The worst thing you could possibly do in this business is to not try at all.

Many composers are insecure or have issues with not following through on projects. All you can do is do your best. Trust me, you’re going to submit 50 to 100 emails, and only ten might respond back to you. Then out of those ten, three might actually want your music.

Look, you’re not going to know until you try — so write like hell and never give up.

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Jin Wooh

Jin Wooh

Jin Wooh is a producer, composer, audio engineer, A&R and educator with credits on major labels and TV networks. He has taught at the Los Angeles Recording School in the Recording Arts and Music Production programs. You can follow him on Instagram and learn more at calidreamco.com.

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