As a songwriter, it’s tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re a lone wolf; a struggling, solitary artist with nowhere to turn to for help.
Fortunately, that’s not the case. You’re not alone in this, and in fact, with a little digging it’s plain to see that there are a handful of wonderful resources and organizations available to support artists of all stripes. Whether you’re just beginning your career, or on the threshold of something great – our blog will give you an overview of key groups and programs that act as a saving grace for songwriters across the UK, US, and Canada.
You might think that artistry and unionization are completely different beasts – but, having back-up means that your career in the music industry won’t be just a passing phase.
No matter where you live, there’s a very good chance that there exists a national body with the mandate of organizing, advocating for, and sharing resources for songwriters. Depending on where you are, there might even be more than one. The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors, Songwriters Guild of America and Songwriters Association of Canada are a few examples. Similar to a traditional trade union, these organizations exist as a way to ensure power in numbers and to aide in the furthering of songwriters’ careers.
“BASCA exists to support and protect the professional interests of songwriters, lyricists and composers of all genres of music and to celebrate and encourage excellence in British music writing. ”
— British Academy of Songwriters Composers, and Authors
The goal of these organizations is three-fold: build a community for songwriters to be part of, keep songwriters abreast of updates within the music industry in their country, and provide a strong political backing that improves the rights of songwriters. Often times membership to these organizations comes at the cost of a nominal annual fee. Be sure to inform yourself about exact which groups are available to you and what each of them could potentially offer. Most of these organizations also have representatives that you can contact directly for more info.
It often comes as a surprise to songwriters – and musicians in general – that there are programs in place that will actually give you money to create music. While that’s a bit of a simplification of things, there may be several kinds of grants, loans, and other financial help available to you as an artist. There is no universal body that oversees these types of programs, and the specifics vary widely depending on where you live.
For UK citizen artists, Help Musicians UK offers support to emerging, professional and retired musicians of all genres.
In Canada, there are multiple organizations – both national and regional in scope – that offer funding opportunities to artists and musicians. Agencies like FACTOR and The Canada Council for the Arts offer scores of programs covering many different facets of the arts.
Just across the border in the US, however, funding opportunities are less centralized – but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Whereas most Canadian programs are at least partially government-funded, most US grants and awards are administered by private foundations and organizations – each with wildly different requirements. These organizations are numerous and always changing, so your best first step is to do a bit of internet sleuthing to see what pops up. Here are a few examples to get you started!
Here are some resources to get you started:
– UK charity Help Musicians has a great search tool on their website that helps you to narrow down the options into those that are applicable to your situation.
– The Foundation Center’s GrantSpace offers a similar list for songwriters in the US. Though not filterable, it’s a great jumping off point for stateside musicians on the hunt for funding. As well, check out these organizations that have opportunities throughout the year: New Music USA, Arts.Gov, and the Copland Fund.
– In Canada, FACTOR and Canada Council for the Arts are two of the go-to agencies for project funding. Canuck songwriters should also check out their provincial or regional music associations for a list of their own programs. You can find a list of those via CIMA (The Canadian Independent Music Association).
Every funding organization has their own set of rules, guidelines, and parameters, so be sure to take a close look at the information provided. If you’re someone who works things out best in person or over the phone, many of the organizations have coordinators that are specifically meant to help people like you understand their programs. Speaking to someone with experience in these matters can help you sort of the wheat from the chaff when it comes to funding your project.
Are you the type of songwriter who dreams of having their song featured on film or television? A common thought is that it’s impossible to land a “sync” without being well established. While this is not entirely true, the fact remains that a large majority of artists will never hear their own song on one of the iconic Apple ads. Best way to become an exception? Do your homework (and have a great song, of course).
Music licensing is considered by most to be a it’s own functioning ecosystem. So let’s look at a few of the opportunities to get your foot in the door.
It’s crucial that you bring your songs to a point where they are finely tuned and tight as a drum. If you do not have recordings that you are 100% proud of, it is worth revisiting this step down the road. The best place to start for anything is a great demo – obviously, Trackd is an easy and simple method for starting this process.
Independent A&R (Be Wary)
Companies such as Taxi.com, Broadjam, and MusicXRay promise to act as that all-important liaison between you – the songwriter – and labels, publishing companies, and music supervisors; boosting your chances of landing a label or publishing deal, or getting your songs placed in movies and television. As a member, you are meant to receive feedback and critiques on your work, and opportunities to pitch on briefs that fit your sound.
There is no doubt that these companies have the ability to land placements for your work, but the fact of the matter is that they often receive hundreds of thousands of submissions per year. To have a chance at success, your songs really need to stand out; meaning that your songs need to be better than 98% (estimate) of all songs submitted.
We suggest skipping this stream and focusing on the below
There is no shortage of music licensing websites that accept unsolicited submissions at no cost. Unlike the above, though, there are no promises of “taking your career to the next level” and most times not even a response. This said, there really is nothing stopping you from submitting and hoping for the best.
Most of these libraries will accept submissions in the way of an online form, and a link (or attachment) to 2-4 of your tracks. Pick your songs that you feel have the best sync potential, write a concise description of your music in any comment box that is provided, and submit away! Rinse and repeat with as many companies as you can find. Why not grab a drink and make an afternoon of it 🙂
– Try to use strong visually appealing, brief sentences to describe your music. Make the most of the limited space you’ll be provided.
– Make comparisons to relevant artists within reason.
– Take a look at what types of projects each company
– Avoid all caps text and overuse of exclamations (relevant in all walks of life!)
A more time consuming method, if more promising to get a direct response, is to do some research specific projects that fit your music and find their music supervisors. Look into some of your favourite shows, or television advertisements. It can be tough, but with some online research you should be able to track down the company name (if not the specific supervisor’s name). A little tip: websites like IMDB typically have supervisors listed in the credits, so it makes sense to start your search there. From there it’s all about crafting a concise e-mail with your songs, and why you think they’re a good fit for sync.
There’s a certain etiquette to sending your tracks to potential licensors, so consider these “FAQs” and make sure you’ve got all your bases covered before you start your outreach.
– Resist the BCC blast and reach out personally to any contacts.
– Don’t bombard them with follow ups every two days.
– Do check in every so often and if you don’t hear back, don’t be offended. If your music is a fit, you’ll hear back.
As you navigate through the wilderness that is songwriting, keep in mind that you are not alone. Many others have come before you and established best practices and support systems to make it easier for the next to come along. If you take some time to learn about these systems and programs, you can be sure that you’ll have a leg up when it comes to getting ahead in your chosen career.
Russell Sheffield is the co-founder of Trackd and a music die-hard. He’s a drummer by day and by night he manages some incredible bands. Before Trackd he had success in FinTech and design. Russ’s biggest skill is uncovering amazing talent and linking people together to get huge results.