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 Post subject: Pitching songs
PostPosted: October 15th, 2007, 11:47 am 
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I've only been at this songwriting thing for 2 or 3 years, and my library of "finsihed songs" isn't all that extensive. But I think I've written a few good worship songs, and those that I do call "good" have been used pretty widely in worship, not only at my own church but at others in my area. They've been met with lots of enthusiasm.

So I thought maybe it was time to "pitch" one to a label.

And coincidentally enough, I got a letter at about the same time from EMI Music. They're the folks who have worshiptogether.com under their umbrella. My music director had contacted them and said they had a new songwriter who was doing some nice stuff, and they in turn sent me an invitation to submit a single song.

So I submitted the one that has had the most positive feedback as a mainstream praise and worship song. "Build Your Kingdom." I've had it on here for critique, and it went pretty well. Lou Tata (InHisPresence) mastered it for me. You can listen to it here.

Of course, they rejected it.

I'm not that disappointed. My expectations weren't terribly high (although one can hope). I know it's probably going to take dozens of rejections before anybody bites, if they ever do. The thing that got me was their very bare-bones critique of the song.

"We love the music. You might try revising the lyrics in the chorus. 'Build Your Kingdom' is heard several times, and it tends to get repetitive."

Interestingly enough, that very weekend at church, our worship team did "Your Grace Is Enough" by Chris Tomlin ... one of EMI's biggest stars. Most of you know the chorus ...

Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me

No repetition there (add sarcasm).

Then we did "Thank You, Lord" by Paul Baloche, another megastar in the worship songwriting world. It's chorus ...

Thank You, Lord
I just want to Thank You, Lord
Thank You, Lord
I just want to Thank You, Lord
Thank You, Lord

Hmmm. My chorus goes ...

Build Your Kingdom through me
Build Your Kingdom through me
Use my hands, use my feet
I'll do anything You need
Build Your Kingdom through me
Build Your Kingdom through me
Take my heart, take my life
I just want to build it right through me

I guess I don't understand the critique. "We love the music" ... love it as in "revise the chorus, and we'd probably use it"? Or love it as in "... but it still has no chance in haites of ever being useful"? And if "Your Grace Is Enough" isn't repetitive, then how is "Build Your Kingdom"? Maybe I should feel fortunate to even get feedback of any kind.

Anyway, I'm trying to figure out what to take away from this experience. What experiences do you have? What have you learned? What does a guy do next? Any strategies you'd recommend?

Thanks!

Bob

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PostPosted: October 15th, 2007, 12:30 pm 
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But I think I've written a few good worship songs, and those that I do call "good" have been used pretty widely in worship, not only at my own church but at others in my area. They've been met with lots of enthusiasm.


Hey Bob!

Have you joined CCLI?
If not you should. Then submit your songs to ShareSong for more attention.

EMI can be a tough nut to crack but at least they listened!

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PostPosted: October 15th, 2007, 1:15 pm 
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That is a funny response from EMI. I dabbled in children's bookwriting for awhile, and was astonished to learn that Peter Rabbit was rejected 91 times before Beatrix Potter finally got it published. There are also children's book publishers that say "no talking animals" in their submissions guidelines, yet publish books with talking animals every year. I think you caught someone on an off day. Wait 6 months or a year and resubmit.

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PostPosted: October 15th, 2007, 4:00 pm 
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The chorus to a song of mine ( Goats And Sheep)goes

One day our Father will decide if we are goats or if we're sheep.
One day our father will decide if we are goats or if we're sheep.

Chorus is only used 3 times in the song.
Been told other songs need 1 or 2 more verses.
When I love the simplicity and shortness of many of Rich Mullins songs.
Plus I am a friend of God Etc...

Go figure, I can't.
Blair

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PostPosted: October 15th, 2007, 4:42 pm 
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Yeah, there's that Rich Mullins song that goes:

Everywhere I go, I see You
Everywhere I go, I see You
Everywhere I go, I see you
Everywhere I go, I see you

:-k

Huh.

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PostPosted: October 16th, 2007, 12:29 pm 
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Yeah, I always thought modern worship music was sort of ABOUT repetition. Finding a point and driving it home. Allowing the worshiper to focus on a single idea so that they can give God intimate worship without having to wonder, "What's a royal diadem?"

In fact, at the Integrity Music Songwriter's Retreat I attended in 2006, they talked about repetition as a GOOD practice in worship music!

And on the secular side, U2 had a song on their Unforgettable Fire album (one of their best-selling albums) that used quite a lot of repetition. Six minutes and six seconds ... of the same two chords!

Ironically enough, the song is called "Bad."

Does the name fit? Or is it really "good" to repeat?

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PostPosted: October 16th, 2007, 1:01 pm 
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I personally don't think that repetition is a bad thing especially in P&W.
Pretty much that's the main intent of P&W, and that is to keep it simple.

As far as EMI is concerned they have their own agenda as far as what material meets their own set idea of what best suits them as a publisher/label. They deal with a lot of writers and artist, so many that they might only be considering songs that are very unique or/and that fit their set criteria.

It does not necessarily mean that the song was or is bad but that it's not right for them at this moment. I had a client that approached EMI with 2 or 3 songs and basically got the same answer. So maybe it's much like a standard reply .

There are more companies out there so don't let it discourage you! :mrgreen:

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PostPosted: October 16th, 2007, 7:10 pm 
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Hey Bob,

Man, that's frustrating. I've often said to people that the music industry is a "no" based industry. Anymore, it seems like you have to MAKE them pay attention to you either by A) having a REAL connection to someone in the industry (Chris Tomlin loves your music, for example) or B) making them pay attention to you through sales. It was way cool that they even offered to listen to a song - most of the demos people pitch end up in the "circular file" for a variety of reasons, mine included. I've been at it for 6 years now in a bunch of different formats and it's a hard business no matter what style of music you do.

However, it might be valuable to look at what they said in different contexts and see if there isn't something useful to glean from it. Maybe what they meant by repetition isn't inside the chorus itself, but perhaps the chorus itself is repeating too many times. Maybe there needs to be more material balancing out the chorus - after all, "Your Grace Is Enough" has a verse ("Great is Your faithfulness, oh God of Jacob") and a prechorus ("So remember Your people...") along with the super-repetitive chorus.

Its also possible that there's absolutely nothing wrong at ALL with your song, they're just missing out because no one told them they should like it - I'm fortunate to have talked to quite a few major label artists and industry types that have suggested that the climate of the the music industry has made people afraid to take even a *slight* risk on something at the expense of their job. I didn't get to listen to the song, the link didn't work for me for some reason - but even if I had, I don't know that I'd have any more wisdom than you about it. But stay the course - if some people like your songs then chances are there are more people out there that will like them too. That's what I'm kind of banking on for myself, anyway :)

By the way, when I was writing children's music (yes, Children's music) I had been working relatively closely with a fairly well-established songwriter and performer. He seemed to like my material (even saying so much), and I floated the idea of recording an album past him. He wrote me the most withering, scathing response I'd ever gotten, blasting songs that he previously claimed to like. I've gotten a lot of rejection in my life as a writer, but something in that just shook me to my core. He later apologized for being such a jerk (without explaining WHY) and reclaimed liking the songs he said he liked before again. But he had come up as a writer with this teacher that basically broken him down and built him back up the way HE wrote songs, the "right" way. And I think he was trying to do the same for me - trouble is, there were a lot of inconsistencies in the "Right" way. Granted, he had a lot of valid points and helped me fix a lot of bad habits I had (which I am grateful for). But ultimately, that mentoring relationship didn't last. So, I guess be grateful they didn't send you out for slaughter, take what you can use from the experience, and keep on truckin'!

Daryl


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PostPosted: October 18th, 2007, 9:57 am 
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Thanks everybody for your responses and support. It's interesting to hear the wide variety of experiences.

I work in a creative business, so I know basically how it works. Until somebody says "yes," you're going to hear all kinds of reasons your work isn't good enough. Once you've got a little bit of a track record, it almost doesn't matter what you create, somebody will buy it. I can't tell you how much garbage we pay for from freelancers who get contracts simply because "we've used them before" or "they have a track record."

Truth is, every time I listen to the local Christian station, I'm firmly convinced that the songwriters here on CSN are every bit as good, and better in 75% of the cases, than the people writing the songs I'm listening to. Which is why I spend more of my time listening to my iPod, plus lots of CSN stuff, rather than the radio.

That being said, I'm not going to quit. In fact, I'm more encouraged than ever, thanks in great part to the posts here. Thank you all.

Bob

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PostPosted: January 12th, 2008, 4:02 pm 
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Hi everyone, it has been a while since I posted here.  I want to share my past experience with the whole pitching thing.

I did not start writing songs from a Christian perspective until 1996 and my very modest success in the music business happened before I got saved for the most part.  Take what I say with a grain of salt because I have not figured out how the Christian music business differs or is like the secular side of the business.  I think what I have learned applies though.

I have written songs for 37 years now, I am 53.  In 1979 I decided to concentrate on writing country songs exclusively because in my mind, it would be easier to get a hit in country music.  Boy was I naive!!!

I armed myself with a copy of the Songwriter's Market and started pitching to anyone and everyone in Nashville.  I walked to the post office every day and just shotgunned cassettes and lyrics out to everyone. I was rejected by everyone, Tree, Atlantic, Bug, Warner, Maypop.  At one point I considered wallpapering our bathroom with the rejection notices; I still have them all somewhere.

I think I eventually signed 2-5 single song contracts with mom and pop music publishers in Nashville, a couple actually through the mail and a couple as a result of 2 to 3 trips I made to Nashville in the 80s.  (Side note: NO REVERSION CLAUSE; do NOT sign a contract like this if you can help it. ) Nothing has ever come of these contracts though.

The trips I made to Nashville cost me a lot of money and in 1981 I actually pawned a Gibson J45 and Fender Pbass in a Nashville pawnshop to extend my stay and have money to get back home again.  I lost both of those guitars.......... :(    The publishers up there joke about the songwriters walking up and down the sidewalks in Music Row with a guitar, lyric sheets and CDs or cassettes.  That is exactly what I was doing.  I never made it past the receptionist at any of the large publishing houses or record label/publishers under those circumstances, (although it IS important to treat the receptionists with respect.  They can make or break the possibility of you seeing someone higher up the food chain at a later date.)  I think maybe 2 of the smaller publishers actually did let me make appointments and talked to me, but passed on everything I pitched.  I think I quit making the cold call trips to Nashville in 1985.

In retrospect:
Pitching Unsolicited Songs through the mail does NOT work!
Cold Call trips to Music Publishers and Record Labels does NOT work!
The shotgun approach with no specific focus/goal does NOT work!


I sulked for a few years, but I never stopped writing.....

In the early 90s I had a couple of years where I got a songwriter showcase at SXSW.  Although that festival is making a LOT of money and the musicians and songwriters are getting a tiny amount of pay for the showcases and I resent the exploitation of bands hocking everything they own and driving across the US in a van to play a 45 minute showcase, there are industry people out and about and a few of them actually heard me at the showcase.  None of the industry people who heard me at the showcase picked up any of the songs though.

But.....

(a friend of mine who is a GREAT songwriter was hanging out with a rep from a then up and coming independent music publisher in Nashville.  This friend of mine had targeted this publisher specifically and had made many trips to Nashville to build a relationship with this specific staff member of this specific publisher.  He took him out to lunches and dinners and LISTENED to what the publisher had to say.  He did NOT just pitch him songs right off the bat.  He let the publisher know that he was willing to move there and that he was interested in being a staff writer for them.  That is exactly what happened for him.)

This friend of mine introduced me to the publisher during SXSW and because my friend talked me up, I had a new door open up and was given the opportunity to pitch them some songs.  I made a few trips to Nashville specifically to talk to him and pitch songs.  I probably pitched 50 songs over the course of several months and they passed on all of them except for 2, which I signed single song contracts WITH reversion clauses.  To my surprise, 1 of the 2 they picked was a song written from the heart, personal experience deeply felt.  For the most part, the commercially crafty songs I had written did not interest them at all.  They said those songs sounded like anything else they could hear at any publishing house in Nashville.  They wanted to hear unique songs from the heart, sincere and somehow different and fresh.

They paid to have demos of these songs recorded by really good singers and musicians, no cost to me.

More lessons learned at this point:

Write from the heart, not what you think will be a hit!

A real publisher puts their money where there mouth is!

A real publisher is not afraid to sign a reversion clause!

WHO YOU KNOW IS AS IMPORTANT AS HOW WELL YOU WRITE!

RELATIONSHIP IS IMPORTANT!!


I had a chance to be a staff writer if I moved Nashville, but I was a greedy dog and kept lobbying to get a staff writing deal AND stay where I lived.  I actually got them to consider it, but they didn't bite ultimately and I can't blame them.  If I had been there, they would have had me co-write with writers far more experienced and talented than me.  Still kicking myself for not making the move..........

I stayed here, but during that period in the early 90s I co-wrote every week with friends who were good songwriters.  (Although we wrote a lot of stuff I would just as soon not every hear again, I also wrote the best secular songs I have ever written during that period.  Even the ones I wrote alone were better because I was treating it as work and hitting it hard every week.)

One of those songwriters got some cuts with a singer in Norway on a CD that went platinum in Norway and made him quite a lot of money.  He subsequently got a song we co-wrote cut on another CD and I had my first cut and actually earned money for something I had been doing for the love of it with no financial return for 20 years at that point.

I also play bass with several very good singer/songwriters, which has opened the door to co-writing with them and subsequently resulted in getting songs on their CDs with regional and overseas distribution.  

again,
WHO YOU KNOW IS AS IMPORTANT AS HOW WELL YOU WRITE!

A recent surprise - that same singer contacted me in 2007 to get permission to record another song I wrote........ that I pitched to him back in 1993!

Don't give up on a song you know is good!

I have had many disappointments: deals I was sure were going to happen fell through.  My ship has come in and sunk at the dock several times.  I have been confused over the years, but now I know plain and simple, it was just not in God's will for those things to happen.  The successes that have happened were in His will.  Actually, I think all of the successes that I have had were new doors opening that were not at all the doors that I was knocking on.  They were either complete surprises or tangential to what I was trying to do under my own power.

Now, having said all of that, I started writing Christian songs in 1996 and I think they are good, but they are not praise or worship songs.  They are closer stylistically to Michael Card and some of Twila Paris's non praise songs (not that they are as good, but those are my 2 favorite Christian songwriters.)  I don't really know what God has purposed for these songs, but they did get a good response when I played them at church.  They are really written more as songs for unbelievers, kind of a witnessing/convicting slice of my life experience.  I am not really a performer per se and I am definitely not a worship leader, so I am not sure what God wants me to do with these songs.

Here is what I have learned over 37 years:


*Never give up writing if God has gifted you with this talent
*Network with other writers; don't isolate
*Find people you like and trust in music ministry and industry and cultivate those relationships
*Don't give up on a song when it is rejected
*Don't pitch unsolicited songs
*Don't make cold calls to music industry reps
*Don't pay someone to write lyrics or a melody or review  your song!!
*Write from the heart, not for commercial success
*Do copyright your songs
*Do sign with a Performing Rights Organization
*Trust God if he closes a door you have been trying to go through; Father knows best (Remember Paul and Asia, good idea, not God's will)


Thanks,
Bill


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PostPosted: January 16th, 2008, 3:54 pm 
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Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences Bill, it is a most humbling account. Thanks too for some good advise.

I do have a couple of questions though: If you had been doing all this today, in the light of the mega communication network of the www that we have, what do you think you'd do differently, and how would you advise someone just starting out to proceed?


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PostPosted: January 19th, 2008, 4:06 pm 
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andyw_nz wrote:
Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences Bill, it is a most humbling account. Thanks too for some good advise.

I do have a couple of questions though: If you had been doing all this today, in the light of the mega communication network of the www that we have, what do you think you'd do differently, and how would you advise someone just starting out to proceed?


Sorry for the delay; I have been out of town for my job.

Even with the communication channels that are open today, I still think nothing tops a face to face meeting with one person in the industry that you want to work with.  

I am going to try to reopen channels that I have let get way to cold.  To that end I have e-mailed several publishers in Nashville that I have single song contracts with.  2 out of 4 have responded so far.  Now that they remember who I am and the specific songs, I am going to start submitting songs to at least 1 of those 2 publishers, but I am probably going to do it in person, by appointment and plan a trip to Nashville around the appointments.  I will keep it short and listen to their feedback, see if I am on the right track with what I am writing these days as far as secular country music.

If I were just starting out today as a writer, I would do these things:

*Copyright your songs, even if you send in a recording of several of them and copyright it as a collection.  It just helps with the peace of mind.
*Join a local songwriters group if you have one and get feedback from them about the strengths and weaknesses of your writing.  Be humble and really listen.  Sometimes they are wrong and somtimes writing groups can be pretty insensitive and hurt the feelings of new writers.  If you get consistent feedback that something specific about a song needs to be reworked, it is time to take it to heart and rewrite.
*Go to any seminars that are sponsored by either BMI or ASCAP locally.  If you don't live near a music industry city, I think it would be worth a trip to one to attend one of these seminars.  They present a really good foundation of how the music industry works and usually there is a pitch/critique session, (just have thick skin, they don't pull any punches.)
*Play your songs for your pastor and elders and ask them to make sure that the songs are doctrinely correct.  Play the songs at the church or see if someone else would perform the song at church.  Be objective about how the songs work for your local congregation.
*Approach local praise and worship leaders in your community and get advice from them based on their experience.
*Be patient and persistent.  I don't think I wrote a song that a publisher was remotely interested in for the first 6 years that I wrote and the songs I think were my strongest came after I had been writing for 15 years.  My Christian songs were written after I had been writing a full 20 years and not all of them are great songs, even though they are VERY heartfelt and dedicated to God!  I am STILL capable of writing truly awful songs too!!
*Don't be a pest! I used to call one of my publishers about once a week to see if they had gotten me a cut yet.  I thought that getting a song signed to a publisher was the end all, be all step and that once I did that, I could relax and let them do all the work.  The truth is that it is WAY more competitive for the publishers than it is for the writers getting the songs to the publishers.  That ought to give you an idea of how tough it is.  They should be actively pitching a song and a good publisher will pay for a demo if the one you submit is not a strong representation of the song.  Even some very successful writers I know are always working hard to get their songs out there although they have publishers.
*Don't get caught up in the "my songs are as good as most of the praise songs, what's wrong with this industry?" mentality.  It may well be true, but what a publisher taught me is that my real competition is the best songs I can think of.  As writers of Christian songs, our competition is the absolute best work of Michael Card, Twila Paris, Darlene Zschech.  Our competition is the songs that make us cry, send chills up our spine, bring us closer to God........  My goal is to write a song as good as "Lamb of God" or "Shout to the Lord." I am not there yet, but God willing, I will be.
*Never pay someone to write lyrics or a melody, watch out for the song sharks.  I personally will not pay someone to review a song.  It just strikes me as wrong although I know some very good writers who use services like that.
*Plan a business trip to Nashville and set some appointments before you go with a few publishers if you can get through, but definitely with a writer's rep from BMI or ASCAP and the Nashville Songwriter's Association.  Let them know up front that you are just starting out and you just want 30 minutes of their time to get their specific advice for a new writer who is writing specifically whatever you write.  Offer to take to lunch or dinner.  Don't be to eager to pitch the songs you have written unless you have already gotten rave reviews from people OTHER THAN FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  Don't talk much; listen intently and take notes.  Be polite and humble.  
*Co-write with people who are stronger writers than you are.  Just like tennis, that's how we get better.
*Get your songs out on Sharesong.org.  I have not done this yet, but it seems to me like it is a good way to get your songs out to the ministry field.  CCLI seems like a good way to distribute songs and potentially get compensation for the songs being performed in churches.  You should get advice from others here who have experience with these 2 organizations.  I can't offer any experience here.
*Don't quit!  If God has called you to do this, it is a ministry.  Maybe it will be a way to make money as well, maybe not.  If your songs help convict an unbeliever of their sins or edify the saints, then whether you make money or not is of way less importance.  Treat it as a ministry first.
*Write something every day.

That's all I can think of for now...........

God bless you and your song ministry,
Bill


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PostPosted: January 21st, 2008, 4:56 pm 
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Bill,

Thank you for taking the time to share your amazing testimony and your wisdom. I'm saving it all in a Word file ... it's some of the best advice I've ever heard. You've presented things from so many perspectives, including the publisher's, and that's incredibly helpful.

I have absolutely no idea what the Lord has in store for me. Maybe it's simply a matter of keeping on doing what I'm doing, writing songs that minister to people in my local area. That's perfectly OK with me. God's plans are way better than mine. My wife always encourages me to look at the positives in everything. She routinely points out that in just a couple of years, my songs have been shared not only in churches, but also in youth shelters, rehab centers, prayer centers, Christian conferences, prisons, public places like the zoo, even retirement homes. She reminds me that while my music doesn't get radio airplay, it has touched an awful lot of people, more than I tend to think. That's a very healthy (and God-like) way to look at it.

Again, thanks. Your words are so encouraging.

Blessings,

Bob

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PostPosted: January 21st, 2008, 5:15 pm 
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Bob, you are welcome.  It is a blessing to me to sit and think about what I recommend and I should take a lot of my own advice!
   You have a wise wife. "She reminds me that while my music doesn't get radio airplay, it has touched an awful lot of people, more than I tend to think. That's a very healthy (and God-like) way to look at it."
   This is really what is important and you are storing up treasures in heaven by concentrating on sharing your songs in this way.  The ministry aspect of songwriting is WAY more important than the commercial success aspect......

I just remembered this web page.... definitely check this out!

Don Francisco's Advice Regarding Music Ministry:


bilco


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PostPosted: January 21st, 2008, 6:05 pm 
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bilco wrote:
I just remembered this web page.... definitely check this out!

Don Francisco's Advice Regarding Music Ministry:


bilco


A fantastic link....a MUST read, thanks for posting that, Bill.  Ron

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PostPosted: October 14th, 2008, 9:25 pm 
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Joined: May 27th, 2007, 8:11 pm
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Location: FLORIDA, USA
i am so glad and rejoicing that i found this read and the link above!

this is just what i needed!
ty
Blessings
ang


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 Post subject: Re: Pitching songs
PostPosted: January 21st, 2009, 12:38 am 
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And let's not forget the elusive verse to Amazing Grace... the one that goes... *ahem*

Praise God, Praise God
Praise God, Praise God
Praise God, Praise God
Praise Goooood
Praise God, Praise God
Praise God, Praise God
Praise God, Praise God
Praise Goooood

;) No, but really... I've had a lot of interaction with frustrated indie Christian Songwriters, and almost all of them feel stuck in this cycle at some point in their lives.

We have a lot of people that have changed their tune after being invited into the CSD Network Panel of Certified Songwriters, but that's because we help them make the connections to pitch their songs directly to an artist that's looking. As was mentioned more than once before on here, it does help to know someone or have that connection in the industry.

The hope that I have to offer you is this: That connection doesn't have to happen by chance alone. There are plenty of people looking for songs out there. You just have to take a step and let them know what you have to offer. Go to a place that they are looking!

Let me know if this was any help at all, or if I can help you out in any other way!

Blessings,
Shawn

_________________
Shawn McLaughlin
Director of Songwriter Development
The Christian Songwriter Development Network

http://ChristianSongwriterDevelopment.com
Send us an email!

Do you want free interviews and advice from today's chart-topping Christian Songwriters? Click here and we will send you tips from songwriters like Twila Paris, Mark Hall of Casting Crowns, and Russ Lee, former lead singer of NewSong. Consider it a free gift from the Christian Songwriter Development Network, no strings attached.



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