RULES YOU DONT BREAK (that may help you get a break!)
-by Lynne Robin Green
(© 1998 by Lynne Robin Green.
Reprinted by permission of author

A lot of Songwriter's publications always invariably include some basic information on how you should present your material to Music Publisher's. Of course the standard advice is enclosing not more than 3 songs and neatly typed lyric sheets and a cover letter (containing just a snippet of information on your background of note as a Writer, or a bio and picture of the band).And also a reminder to be sure to put your copyright (c) notice and year (and name and address on all of the materials including the cassette). These are the basic things you need to remember.

I thought for this month's column I would take this time to elaborate ON MY OWN personal HALL OF SHAME of some of the Songwriter and Band's MAJOR SUBMISSION MISTAKES that I encounter firsthand. Please bear in mind that - This list should be taken with a grain of salt, always, as I do with each submission - at this end.

Rule #1 - Don't write me a five page letter that talks about everything that ever happened to you in your life before you wrote this song, and why you must get it published or you'll be suicidal. That's a little excessive and I'm no miracle worker, I'm a music publisher.

Rule #2 - Don't tell me that you're in prison on Death Row for murder - but through songwriting you have finally rehabilitated yourself, (and don't also enclose a tape of extremely violent songs with no possible humane value but total violation of all sexual mores and respect for society. This tape will not be heard past the first cuss word, and yes, I do blush)..

Rule #3 - Dont send me a song about your dog dying and how much you miss Fluffy, (obviously this is NOT a song for a major recording artist to consider recording). And don't enclose a note that says, well you know that (major artist) - SHE just lost her dog and so "this song is a shoo in for her next record".Woof!

Rule #4 - Don't write me an insulting cover letter, such as -"I am submitting these songs to your company BUT I want you to know that I do have 3 other offers with an advance -from X Y & Z Publishers already on these songs " so either you want them or you don't BUT I want your answer NOW, and if you are interested - please call my attorney directly at ___________."! Believe it or not a polite, friendly and business like approach should always be used in an introduction letter. (And also---why didn't your attorney send me these songs, anyway?

Rule #5 - Don't mix your tape into a distorted mess and then dub it from a cassette onto another cheap cassette. I'm sure you can just see me struggling to make out vocals against the wall of fuzz and feedback. First generation copies are best. Also please don't submit a garage tape recorded live and mixed badly--without any lyric sheets.!!! I find myself brailling through the first 3 words of the first song-and then ripping that cassette outta the deck faster than a speeding projectile. Of course, you've lost me at that point. I'm sure you want a publisher to 'hear the words, too'... wouldn't you?

Rule #6 - Don't tell me how much your aunt and all her friends insist this is a hit song for Barbara Streisand and how your uncle sang it at your wedding (and it received a standing ovation, by the only sober guest there) - and therefore it's an all time standard for the masses and I would be stupid to not realize that we could make millions with it.

Rule #7 - Don't bother to soundcheck or rewind your cassette, before you mail it, (I live to rewind through all of the songs listed on the A side-to finally find out that the cassette is actually blank).Yes we do listen,faithfully.

Rule #8 - Don't put a spoken word message and full oration at the beginning of each song, I'm not an AUDIO BOOK Publisher! And please limit your submission to 3 songs max, as these should be your 3 best (even THE ONE BEST that you've ever written). We're looking for that rare HIT SONG, not just a good song, unfortunately so.

Rule #9 - Don't pre-negotiate in your cover letter-as in--"Im offering you 25% publishing on this song-ONLY-so get back to me fast if your interested. (This is not a song swap meet for goodness sake, we should always hear and offer our interest first, isn't that why you approached us?).

Rule #10 - Don't send songs that are lyrically sexist,racist, or that promote violence or have no redeeming merit or commercial appeal in their message . (Sometimes some of the messages would blow your mind and I kinda get insulted that someone would write that, and wanna go forth and preach it). Of course the exception is if youre a band and that particular message makes up your 'sound, style and thrust'. Still some Publishers don't work with that type of material, by choice.

Rule #11 - Don't call me up and act pushy and rude and then request to submit your tape.You just might find a nice person lives on the other end of the phone, here. Courtesy is rewarded with courtesy always. Also - don't call my voicemail at midnight from across the other side of the U.S. - and ask me to return your call - (when you never said WHAT the call was regarding, and you do know that I do not accept unsolicited calls).

Rule #12- Don't sing the songs yourself if you have no singing voice (and you know it), (you wont be helping to demonstrate them in the best light at all).And don't hire a singer who can't sing (1) within the melody you wrote (2) On key (3) Within the key the song is in -(4) to the rhythym that the song is, or ON the beat!.
Also important, don't stop in the middle of the song and add a 16 bar badly played guitar solo where it doesnt even fit and (5) Dont start out the song with a 16 bar massive musical introduction,that has me fast-forwarding just to get to the first verse, 'already'. (Remember-Write it right,get it tight -and show it right!).

*This list is given and intended only as this authors personal experiences with some songwriters submission packages -over the past years.

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