"You've written a Hit song... Now what?"
(Extract from an
article by Dec Cluskey)
Four ways of approaching this matter of having a 'Hit Potential' song. Each way valid and each way necessitating hard work.
(A) SELLING THE SONG TO A RECORD COMPANY
The least attractive.
Record Companies are not in the business of finding songs (contrary to much held belief). They, generally speaking, sign artistes who have either written their own songs or their management have access to great current, respected writers with track records (usually past Hit recording artistes themselves). If a Record Company does fancy an artiste who does not fit in with the above then the Company will call first to their affiliated Publishing Company, who in turn will have a catalogue of, not only new songs from their roster of writers, but old stuff that is ripe for re recording (Steps? Celine Dion? Phatts and Small?).
The 'Modus Operandi' of exciting a Record Company is precisely the same as for the other three 'approaches'. My way, and the way that the 'insiders' use and will not share with the 'amateurs'. We'll get to that in a minute.
(B) SELLING THE SONG TO A CURRENT ARTISTE
The almost impossible.
Why? Because they are inundated with CRAP! Every amateur has a CD burned and trots it off to Robbie Williams with twelve songs on, ranging in age from six months old to six years old and all sounding fifteen years to twenty five years old. Forgetting that Robbie writes himself/writes with astonishing co-writers/has twenty top writers calling him with great songs that he can 'have a bit of the action' and lastly has 200 Music Companies pestering his management Company with great and almost great songs. So the 600 demos that arrive per week? You can answer that yourself!
But there is a way of 'getting to Robbie Williams & Co.'
Celine Dion, at this moment in time, has a backlog of demos that fill up the next six months of listening time!
(C) SELLING THE COMPLETE PROJECT:
Always the best approach.
Why? The Record Companies want Hits. They get Hits more easily with New Product...in other words a 'project' which is: the song and the artiste/artistes. Artistes today are almost like cannon fodder. It's the song that is the hit, the artiste is merely the convenient vehicle.
It cuts out all the initial work for the Company. I.E. finding the artiste for the song, Getting it arranged, recorded, getting an image together (remember that it is impossible to get to Robbie Williams?). Getting the artiste 'gig ready', groomed, costumed, taught how to use a knife and fork, how to stop picking spots and worse picking their nose (I kid you not!)
This is, by far the most 'used' method in our business....because IT WORKS!
Nobody in the Company, thus, has to worry about the peripheral stuff...IT'S DONE FOR THEM. Yes, they will automatically want the track remixed...that's a given...and still a mystery of the Universe to producers like me...the new mix is never 'better' than the original, unless produced by the original producer (on phenomenally expensive gear at the Record Company's expense).
(D) Sell it to or do a deal with a Publishing Company:
Might as well sell it to The Ford Motor Company. Of course, they will sign you up (you make no money). Unless they feel you are an exceptional talent both writing wise and performing wise then you may get an advance and maybe, if you're lucky, a better percentage split than normal. But we all know, and choose to forget, that advances have to be paid back out of royalties...so you're still not making money. Of course, they will tell you you have a wonderful song, and can they have some more (you make no money). Then, if you sign, you are in the queue behind the 800 other writers with material on their books. And the 35,000 titles they own and they are trying to make money from...PLUS their top writers who consistently turn out TOP THREE tunes. Who do you consider gets the most attention? Got it in one!
YOUR CHOICE STUART!
As an overview let me say one thing: sending hundreds of demos DOES NOT WORK...Never has done, never will! That's not how we do it! AMATEUR IN THE EXTREME.
We sell by enthusiasm. In other words, an intelligent, exciting, enthusiastic, crazy business letter. The top guys in all Record Companies /Publishing Companies /Management Companies are all Business Men...simple?
We strive to set up a meeting. We endeavor to SELL the product. We play the one HIT TUNE! If interested they will ask TWO questions:
- Any more material? (Because of the cost of promoting a one off)
- Where can we see it live? (To ensure that the song 'works' live)
Before committing to anything, they need to know that there is more to come (they would typically spend £1Mill. on a single with the idea of a follow up album, that's where the big bucks are). The Robson and Jerome 'I Believe' promotion was reputed to cost £4 Mill. The Christmas album on the back of it made a tidy Fortune. I had the original million selling hit with 'I Believe'.
A 'today' record company would have very little interest in what is called a 'flyer', in other words a 'one off' Hit with no follow up. "Dem days are gone!"
The hard work is in tracking down the heads of A&R of Companies who deal in this type of material, getting a name and an address (yes, there are reference books but A&R people typically change each six months), then the letter, a follow up letter (they are usually the most disorganized people in the world). It is more than useless trying to call by phone and forget about e.mail and recorded delivery.
At the end of the day it is a 'numbers' game. Even with 'clout' in our business these guys are inundated by propositions, projects, songs, artistes...up to their eyes in it! It is the ultimate 'cry wolf' scenario....they have been 'conned' by so many managers, producers, agents that they just do not believe anyone anymore.....I CERTAINLY DON'T!!!!! Did I believe you?
Any one of (A), (B), (C) actioned by a gobsmacking sales letter and a ruthless campaign entailing a heap of hard work....forget about (D).
A shedload of money, a lot of fame and dozens of managements, Record Companies, Artistes wanting more product! In the case of (C) a money printing machine (you can see why this is the most attractive route).
Here is the 'however':
You have to move fast. Material and taste in our game changes every three months. Your song: 'Another....Broken Heart' is current now, but in a few months?
About the Author
Published with permission from Dec Cluskey
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