We songwriters tend to want anyone and everyone to hear our latest material… NOW. In this post I’ll delve into why it’s often wise to hold back on presenting your material to industry professionals until it’s polished to a diamond-bright shine. So repeat after me:
“We shop no song before its time.”
“Not Bad” Vs. Brilliant
All of us get hyper-excited about our latest 3-minute masterpieces, and immediately experience a burning yearning to blast them out there like shotgun pellets, hoping we’ll hit something. They are our babies, and we find them irresistibly beautiful, as do our Mom and our best friends. The 21st century double-whammy of home recording and social media has made the song-shopping process easier than ever, and digital A&R resources offer a zillion placement opportunities for your material (for a slight fee!). But this is one of those times when less song-shopping is more. Why?
Because it’s vastly preferable to represent yourself with one or two KILLER songs than 10 “not bad” ones.
Because you only have one chance to make a great first impression.
And finally, because no self-respecting music pro wants to waste their time listening to close-but-no-cigar songs.
TRIAL + ERROR = GENIUS
For all of these reasons, the lion’s share of the work needs to be done before that pivotal moment when you actually send a song out. Even though it may appear otherwise when a huge hit “comes outta nowhere,” the team members behind it have usually “paid their dues.” According to Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller, Outliers, achieving mastery in any high-level skill takes approximately 10,000 hours of focused practice. Are you willing to put in the time and energy necessary to polish up your musical and lyrical diamonds? I assume that if you’re reading this, your answer is YES.
Most professional artists, managers, music libraries, or music supervisors are only seeking songs, toplines, tracks, beats, or master recordings that are above and beyond what they can get from their pre-existing circle of colleagues. Your job is to bring your material up to that exalted level. An A&R person’s common refrain is “we don’t hear a single.” That’s the moment when an outside songwriter has the opportunity to swoop in and save the day. If your song makes the eyeballs of The Person Behind the Desk go “ka-ching!,” and it’s recorded so well that it’s interchangeable with the rest of their catalog, then your material has become like a magnet, and you won’t need to resort to the shotgun approach!