I want to write those songs that annoy you. Help?
September 9, 2010 1:05 PM   Subscribe

I think I have a knack for writing really catchy, radio-friendly pop songs. How would I go about getting, say, Britney Spears to sing one?

I'm a classically trained musician, but in the past years I've honed my songwriting skills and as it turns out I'm pretty good at writing radio standard type things. Cheesy, dance-y, mainstream stuff.

I don't have an interest in performing these songs myself, and in any case I'd do a lousy job at it. I just want to compose it and pass the score along and get a royalty check.

I know that big music houses like Sony or other big entertainment companies like Disney employ staff writers who do a lot of the writing for their pop stars/musicals/etc. The behind-the-scenes music staff. I know some of these writers are successful pop stars in their own right, but some of them are just music nerds like me working from a studio.

I realize that this is an incredibly competitive industry. So let's pretend for the purposes of this question that I know full well that this is not an easy market to break into and try to avoid answers that aim to dissuade me. I got a feeling the world will take care of that.

So where do I start? Is this the kind of thing where I could write the songs, produce a demo using, say, ProTools, score out a piano/voice orchestration and just...send it in? What would make a good demo for this purpose? And send it to whom and where? Or do I have to strike out on my own and hope to get "picked-up?" How would I best position myself for that to happen?

Thanks AskMe!
posted by The Pantless Wonder to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite example of this kind of person is Butch Walker He writes Avril Lavignes stuff, Pinks stuff, helped with a Dashboard Confessional album.

It seems to me that his model has been to start his own band and writing successful music. He's not super famous or anything like that but once you have your music out there if it is good it will speak for itself.

I obviously don't have the insider perspective or anything but figured he might be worth looking into.
posted by lakerk at 1:43 PM on September 9, 2010

Taxi.com is what you're looking for. It's a songwriter's organization that helps you submit music for recording artists as well as film, tv, and music library placements. They send out a list of music requests every other week that you can submit for and will give you feedback on your submissions so you can improve them for next time. It's pretty well known and respected in the songwriting industry from what I can tell.

The annual membership is $400 if I remember correctly and it includes free admission to their excellent annual convention in the fall in Los Angeles if you can make it. I've been to four of them and they are great learning and networking opportunities for all kinds of songwriters.
posted by platinum at 1:56 PM on September 9, 2010

Double checked and the membership fee is only $300 for the first year and $200 for annual renewals after that.
posted by platinum at 1:58 PM on September 9, 2010

I don't have the insider perspective either, but you might want to check out articles like this for a word with someone who does.

The "showing up" part of that story does seem a common theme in similar features I've read in that and similar magazines. Setting aside the people who were 'famous' to some extent as performers before choosing to go into a behind the scenes role, many people seem to get their break by being in the right place at the right time. Which may look like luck with hindsight, but is probably more a reflection of constant hustling and networking.

Traditionally "who would I send it to" would be "publishing companies". No reason you couldn't do a perfectly service demo on a home setup, with perhaps a little modest investment in a nice vocal mic + input, or rent local studio time by the hour if you'd rather. People make the actual records that way, so a demo, sure... I'm guessing publishing companies would be ok with something that is more sparse piano/guitar and/or slightly tacky-MIDI quality to some of the backing tracks. But again, this is not really my field.

Other option would obviously to be team up with someone (or two) who knows engineering, production, plays some instruments, and so on, but maybe not such a strong songwriter, who would flesh out your compositions in an 'actual record' way, which you then pimp to labels/radio/internet as per any other aspiring artist, with a longer term eye on using any exposure you get there to leverage into the writing-for-others game.
posted by Slyfen at 2:01 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Theres no clear cut answer for you. My best answer for you is to start networking with other people in the music industry. Latch on to any singer, rap artist, or producer because some of them have real connections. Don't give your money to a website that say they will submit your stuff. That's a waste of money. The way these singers, like Britney work is they do get a whole ton of songs and they decide, 1... who they want to give a chance to and number 2... which song they decide to cut (record) on an album. And sometimes you wont know if your song made it until the album is released. That's technical stuff. What happens in the industry is that sometimes you will have a DJ or artist who signs a whole bunch of writers. Align yourself with one of them. It will be hard work and you might not get credit on an album but you can get a percentage depending which part of the song you write. But start writing your stuff... network, network, network and build relationships from there so that you get in.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 2:21 PM on September 9, 2010

Oh and protect your songs too. Don't give them out freely for someone else to steal and you get no benefit from it. Play the game smartly.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 2:24 PM on September 9, 2010

I asked this question once of someone in the industry, and they said "get someone who can sing well to record demos of your songs".
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:17 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are going to have to network. Pick up a copy of Songwriters Market (your library should have a copy or get it via interlibrary loan) and it will have tips.

You will need to make the best quality demo you can without breaking the bank. But no one is going to listen to it unless you get some connections. It really is about who you know.

If you know someone trying to break into the industry as a vocalist they may be willing to help you with demos. You really will need a good vocalist for your demo if you aren't a performer yourself.

But, seriously, get that copy of Songwriters Market and believe what they tell you in it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:48 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

One other thing. If you are really pretty good you might want consider at least for awhile trying to become a staff writer for one of the labels. They will wind up with a bigger piece of the pie BUT you will have a better chance at someone like Britney seeing your song. Once you have made a name for yourself you can strike out on your own.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:51 PM on September 9, 2010

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