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How To Get A Song Published

Oct 12, 2007
It is sometimes difficult to realize that music, despite its nebulous distinction as "one of the arts," is actually regarded as a commodity and is bought, exploited, distributed and sold in much the same way as other commodities. Upon this fact is based the music industry which embraces hundreds of publishing firms, thousands of professional songwriters, wholesalers, dealers, orchestras, radio performers, recording companies and music associations, and which impinges upon the allied fields of motion pictures, drama and radio.

Just what is involved in the "publishing" of a song? Let us follow a song from its manuscript stage to ultimate publication and exploitation. To simplify the procedure, let us assume that this song has been written by a professional songwriter.

The first step, in this case, is an audition before the professional manager of the publishing firm. If the songwriter is a competent pianist, he will perform the number himself. If this shouldn't be the case, he will either ask a friend or the firm's piano player to perform the piece.

The professional manager may suggest a few changes either in the melody or lyric. After these revisions have been made (occasionally, the publisher may have one of his own arrangers "doctor up the tune") the song is accepted for publication and a standard royalty contract is signed by the publisher and songwriter. The publisher then has a few "scratch" orchestrations (handwritten) made by his arranging staff and turns these orchestrations to the song-plugger whose contacts are best able to handle the initial promotion of the number.

The song-plugger may be asked to contact a bandleader and a radio singer for the initial plugs. The bandleader may be contacted during rehearsal, or between performances. The plug may be requested in any number of ways, depending upon the song-plugger's methods, the attitude of the bandleader, etc. However, a possible procedure would be for the song-plugger to approach the bandleader on a friendly basis, discuss "shop" for awhile, and casually introduce the fact that he has a brand new number which is just suited to the style and instrumentation of the band.

After building up the reputation and previous successes of the songwriter, the song-plugger may be able to persuade the bandleader to try out the number in rehearsal. Here, again, changes may be suggested. After these have been effected and, always assuming that the number has actual merit, the bandleader may consent to perform the number. For this purpose, he may have his own arranger make a new orchestration conforming to the particular style of the orchestra, or he might request the publisher to have a special arrangement made.

After the number has been performed, the song-plugger will try to get further plugs from the same bandleader and will also approach other top-flight bandleaders for plugs. The publisher does not have to concern himself with the smaller and lesser-known bands, for if the number is performed successfully by the topflight bands, the smaller bands will follow suit and jump on the "band-wagon."

The radio star is approached in much the same manner, although in this case a special vocal arrangement may have to be made.

By using different performers, and concentrating on constant plugging, the publisher soon builds up a demand for his song. Actual printing is then started, although this at first is restricted to a small quantity. As the song gains in popularity more and more plugs are obtained without the intervention of the song-plugger. Radio performances, band performances, and recordings are made to meet the public demand.

Dealers begin ordering quantities of sheet music from their jobbers and printing goes into full swing. When the song is finally "on its own," the song-plugger's activities slow down and he begins to concentrate upon another new number of his publisher's. However, when the popularity of the song begins to fade and the sales start to drop, the song-plugger resumes plugging the song in an effort to keep it alive as long as possible.

This is the usual route taken by a song to become well-known and possibly a "hit." Now that you know what happens, it is time to launch your own!
About the Author
Long Lost Manuscript Resurfaces With The Underground Secrets On How To Write A Hit Song And Collect All The Royalties!

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