In 1967, Bernie Taupin answered an ad placed in NME by Liberty Records calling for talent. Elton John (then Reg Dwight) answered that same ad.
After auditioning, Elton John was given a pack of lyrics that had been sent to the label, and so began the writing relationship between Elton John and Bernie Taupin that would lead to hits like “Bennie and the Jets.”
If you are a lyricist, you may be wondering how to do this in 2020. In this guide, we will go over sending your lyrics to labels and otherwise getting your lyrics noticed by the music industry.
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Can You Still Submit Lyrics To Labels?
To answer the first and most obvious question, no, you cannot simply submit lyrics to labels. They will not accept lyrics alone.
The music industry has changed significantly in the last 10 years. It has changed even more in the last 30 years.
Since the 1960s, there has been more pressure for artists to write their own material. The publishing industry is still important, but if you are simply writing lyrics, that is not enough to interest a publisher or an artist looking for songs.
These days, most artists are looking for great beats or great instrumentals, and they don’t care as much about the lyrics, because they would rather write their own.
Unfortunately, there is no longer a place to send your lyrics and have them looked at and made into a song.
I do not mean to be negative – only realistic. There are a lot of scams out there for aspiring artists, and it must be understood that there is no market for lyrics alone.
This does not mean that there is no market for your songs!
Most artists who are not writing their own songs want to be involved in the writing process somehow. There are opportunities to co-write with great artists, and as a lyricist, you will be in demand!
Do not be discouraged. If you are a lyricist looking to get your words out into the world, this guide will give you some alternate options.
Find A Musical Collaborator
Great lyrics are important. Great lyrics without music and melodies to accompany them are only halfway home.
Your best bet is to find other musicians and writers to collaborate with. If you are writing great music, people will be happy to write with you! Together, you can create full-fledged songs with lyrics, a great instrumental, killer melodies, and a hooky chorus.
Finding a good musical collaborator should be a lyricist’s top priority. A great lyricist is an amazing asset to a songwriting team. I’ve worked with professional songwriters – finding people who can spit and write with style and speed is a rarity.
You have value, but you need to complete your tea to realize that value.
Learn How To Accompany Yourself And Write Melodies
As a lyricist, you should try to find someone to collaborate with. At the same time, you have a huge opportunity to improve your skills and chances in the industry by developing your skills as an instrumentalist and singer.
Learning to accompany yourself on an instrument is the first step. Understanding how to play basic chords will take you a third of the way to writing a great song. Next, you need to practice writing melodies. Being that you’ve already got the lyrics under your belt, you are well on your way!
Finding a musical collaborator can be extremely artistically fulfilling. However, if you are not working on your musical chops, you are missing out on opportunities.
In my opinion, a songwriter should be able to convincingly sing their own song. If you are not a great singer, you should at least be able to play the song on an instrument and have someone else sing it.
Being able to accompany yourself will lead to gigs. Gigs will lead to connections with other artists. Connections with other artists will lead to co-writing sessions, and a co-writing session could lead to a cut on a record with your name in the credits.
Being able to gig leads to opportunities. Opportunities to connect and opportunities to make money.
That said, being able to accompany yourself is also a way to write more complete songs. Writing complete songs is the goal in today’s market. There is no market for lyrics alone, but a complete song can still get attention.
If you think your singing voice is bad, get some lessons and keep practicing. It matters more that you write a great song than if you sing well. If your skills on an instrument are not strong, get some lessons and keep practicing. You can do this!
I Have A Whole Song Finished, Where Should I Send It?
So, you took my advice and collaborated with someone who wrote a melody and chords to your lyrics. You then recorded that song to the best of your abilities. Congrats, you have a created a demo.
You can now send your song to people, labels, and more. This is great, but it comes with risk. I’ve compiled a list of places to send your songs, from least risky, to most risky.
Trusted Friends & Family
Your first goal should always be to create buzz in your local scene. This will lead to more local opportunities. Local buzz starts with friends and family.
Friends and family are the most likely to share your music and give you positive feedback. You might feel that their feedback is too positive and not constructive, but you should take it anyway. We all need positive feedback!
When you write a new song and make a demo you are proud of, you shouldn’t release to the whole wide world right away. Instead, send it to some trusted friends and family to get some feedback.
Once you have feedback, you can either build on that feedback, or take the positive feedback forward.
Trusted Musical Peers
Next, you should send your song to a musical peer that you can trust to give you honest feedback. This stage is important. Before you send the music to music industry professionals, you should make sure it is as good as possible.
Take the feedback you receive and see if any of it improves the song. If so, make the necessary changes before taking the next step.
Sending songs to friends, family, and peers is low-risk, as they won’t write you off if they don’t like what they hear.
Another low-risk place to submit your song is on professional songwriting forums like Muse Songwriters. If your song isn’t “all that”, you won’t burn a bridge, as everyone in that forum is either giving or receiving feedback.
This can be a great way to break out of your close bubble of contacts and receive some out-of-the-box feedback. Obviously, like anything on the internet, you should take the comments you receive with a grain of salt.
Close Industry Contacts
Once you are happy with the song and the demo, it is time to send the song to your close contacts in the industry. These are people you are already working with or have a good relationship with.
This is still low-risk, as your close contacts probably already know you are a good writer, and if they don’t like the song, it isn’t going to ruin their perception of you.
If they do like the song, they will likely get excited about it and send it on to some of their contacts to see if there are more opportunities for the song and for you as an artist.
This is an important step. Your close contacts in the industry can turn into stalwart supporters throughout your career.
Industry Contacts You'd Like To Work With
This is a higher risk step to take with your song. I would recommend sending only your best work to industry pros – they hear a lot of songs and they may not give yours a second chance if they do not like it.
When you're ready, find the emails of people you would like to work with – managers, agents, label representatives, publishers, publicists, etc. – and send them a short and sweet email with a link to your music.
See the section below for tips on sending these kinds of “cold pitches.”
Artists You Want To Work With Or Admire
Another way to make connections and gain ground in the industry is to send your music to artists you admire.
This can be a risky move. Some artists like getting sent music, but others do not. Artists tend to get a lot of DMs from other artists that are self-interested.
When you reach out to other artists, make your interaction as genuine as possible. If this is an artist that you are regularly interacting with, all the better.
If you have an artist’s personal email, you should take great care to not bother them. They will have a limited capacity for listening to songs before deciding that they do not want to hear from you anymore.
Publishers & PRO Reps
Last, you can send your songs to publishing companies. Publishers are looking for high-quality songs to be recorded by other artists or used in film/TV.
Performing Rights Organizations are not trying to get songs recorded, but they do represent you as a songwriter. If you have a good relationship with a PRO rep, they may be able to pass along your song to a publisher. So, it might be worth sending your song to them.
Quick Tips For Sending Emails To Music Industry
Here are a few quick tips for making your cold pitching emails effective.
Don't Send MP3 Attachments
Attachments clog up people’s emails. Imagine getting dozens of MP3 attachments every day. This would slow down your inbox considerably! Some folks will delete any email that has an attachment.
Instead, send a streaming link to your song on SoundCloud, Bandcamp, your website, or maybe even Dropbox.
Include More Information In Your Links
In my opinion, the most effective way to send a pitching email is to make the email short and sweet, but to link to a piece of content that helps you make an impression.
The link should be a link to your website. There, you should have your songs in an embedded SoundCloud player. That way, they can play the songs while browsing your website.
On the page with the link, you can include some attractive pictures, a short bio, and contact information. You can also include extra info like live videos, music videos, and whatever else you think is necessary.
Don’t stuff the page with information, just make it attractive. The goal is to keep the listener on the page, reading about you, for longer.
Don't Follow Up Too Frequently
One, maybe two follow up emails is plenty. Give people 10 days to respond. Don’t pester, and don’t expect a response.
It is kind and considerate to respond to emails, but not everyone has time or makes a habit of responding to every artist submission. They don’t necessarily owe you anything, just because you sent them your music.
Basically, don’t be annoying!
How To Submit Song Lyrics To Record Labels, Final Thoughts
As a lyricist, you have a great skill set. Amazing lyricists are hard to find. Although you might not be able to send lyrics directly to labels, you can still work on your skills and start sending full songs.
There are lots of good opportunities for lyricists. You just need to find them. Getting into a great co-write is a good opportunity. Forming a great creative partnership is a great opportunity. And there are others.
Look for ways to create full songs, and then you can begin sending them around!