JOHN BRAHNEY: Pitching Songs In Nashville

This article is the third in a series which has run in American Songwriter in 1997.  They have included tips from John Braheny in L.A., George Wurzbach in New York, and now pitching songs in Nashville by Jerry Cupit.

Be professional!  Bring only 3 or 4 songs with properly typed lyrics and labels and always cue the tapes.This article is the third in a series which has run in American Songwriter in 1997.  They have included tips from John Braheny in L.A., George Wurzbach in New York, and now pitching songs in Nashville by Jerry Cupit.

Be professional!  Bring only 3 or 4 songs with properly typed lyrics and labels and always cue the tapes.

What can you expect when you knock on doors in Nashville?

One night my daughter Memarie and I were going to a movie.  I walked out and got into my car and watched her as she walked over to the car and stood there.  She finally asked me to open the door.  My comment was “if you never reach out and pull on the handle there’s no way to know if the door will open.”

If you expect to open doors in Nashville, don’t just sit back talking about getting your songs heard.  You need to do more than just knock, you have to reach out, turn the knob and pull, and sometimes push a little to get the door open.

Expect a lot, don’t accept a little; the only way you end up with nothing is if you give up.

What kind of material are they looking for?

Hit songs!  Check into or subscribe to one of the local tip sheets.  This is a list of the artists who are recording, their producers, record labels, and the dates they are planning to go into the studio.  Since these companies and prices vary, I would suggest contacting the Nashville Songwriters Association, BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC for possible addresses and phone numbers of the best and most current publications.

What kind of artists are hot now and what might they look to sign?

My personal opinion would be to sign something different; artists that can be recognized by their voice and/or unique style.  Cookie-cutter productions and sound alike vocals don’t give the listener anything solid to grab onto and stay with.  Artists like George Jones, John Anderson, LeAnn Rimes, Hank Williams Jr., Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kevin Sharp and Ken Mellons, to name a few, all have distinct voices.

My professional advice to you is to check out a current issue of Billboard, R&R and/or Gavin to determine the top charting artists and songs.  Also, keep your radio tuned into a local station for current countdowns and to familiarize yourself with as many artists as possible.  Read country music magazines and trades, watch TNN and other country networks to learn as much as possible about the artists and target your pitches appropriately.

Is there co-writing going on?

In checking a February edition of Billboard magazine, 36 of the top 40 country songs were co-written.  Approximately 50% of those were co-written with the artist.  By co-writing you increase your odds of getting a song heard.  Two or three co-writers could also mean two or three publishers pitching the same song, as opposed to you being the only one trying to get the song out there.

What should I know about demos?

A well made demo is vital to the future of your song.  An effective demo is one that is easy on the publisher’s ears; vocals up front, clear lyrics and melody, with no distortion.  You may use one instrument, or a whole band, depending on your available budget.  The biggest waste of money is going into the studio with a song that is not ready!  All the hot licks in Nashville won’t make a bad song a good one.

Warning: Don’t hand out your original or last copy of a demo.  Never take for granted that you will get that tape back.  Also, keep all tapes away from speakers and magnets.  Your tapes can be erased just by laying near this kind of equipment.


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