Who You Gonna Call? by Steve Rapson

 Dear Soloperformer:

 I’ve been reading your site for some time. I own the PA and SR copyrights on my CD’s.  I’ve played for years around the country, networking to cities that are in reach. The one thing no one has ever told me is to whom I might send my music that would give it a serious listen and perhaps promote it.  There are plenty of guides on what to do, but not on whom to ask.

 Thanks for any advice you might have.



Dear Jim:

It is a myth or at least a misapprehension among new authors, songwriters, and poets that there are people in the music and publishing business whose job it is to listen to or read their work with an eye to picking the best and packaging it for sale.

There is no one like that. The music business does have systems in place for sourcing new songs and singers and writers. Those systems are constructed to prevent the great unwashed from ever getting in the door. If you want to be heard, if you want a shot at a fair consideration of your work, then you must enter the system and play by its rules. The rules are the same for any business:

 1. Know your product.

 2. Know your customer.

 3. See a lot of people and ask all to buy.

 I do not mean to be glib. I mean to be accurate and brief.

Consider Proctor and Gamble, the world’s largest maker of soap. They are always developing new soap brands and they have an R&D department that occasionally finds a new wrinkle in soap. From time to time an outside inventor believes he has a new idea about soap and will contact P&G to ask who he should present his new soap idea to. P&G’s response goes something like this:

Dear Soap Inventor:

My secretary/assistant has informed me that you have sent an idea about a new soap. We appreciate your interest, however I cannot consider or even read your letter. Our R&D department has many products and new formulations that may or may not be similar to yours. Therefore, to avoid patent infringement issues, we must return your letter unread.

Thank you for your interest.

I worked for Gillette/P&G for many years and I wrote several of these letters.

Selling music is not much different than selling soap. The consumer of these products may see a qualitative difference, but the business end does not. The analogy breaks down only in that there are very few people with a burning desire to bring a new soap to market, but there are millions with a new song ready to be heard.

A crowded supply side makes for a system that builds walls around itself just to keep the hordes at bay in order to do day to day business. If you want to sell your songs you must know what you are selling, to whom you are selling it, and why they might find it of value. To get a chance to pitch you need to have contacts, a network, that you have built over time that allows you entrance into the system.

You are right in that how-to books have little to say on who to send material to–there is no one as explained above–however, here are some resources that might help you get your songs heard:


www.performingsongwriter.com  www.taxi.com  www.ascap.com   www.bmi.com  www.sesac.com  www.musesmuse.comwww.broadjam.comwww.musicu.comwww.janisian.com


  The Songwriters Market — which actually does purport to tell you who to send your songs to. 

  Caveat Emptor! 

Here is what one unhappy reviewer said:

…Save your money, buy a ticket to Nashville, make appointments with real people. I will never waste  money and false hopes on this junk again.”


 Jason Blume’s, 6 Steps to Songwriting Success


 Mr. Blume knows whereof he speaks.

I have met and worked on my songwriting with Jason Blume.

I recommend his book and his website.

  And of course once you get heard, you’ll want to deliver your best performance, so I recommend my book:

  The Art of the Soloperformer: A Field Guide To Stage & Podium


  Here I will quote my friend Sam Bayer about my book, “Rapson, I agree with everything in your book… I just don’t want to do all that work”

If it was easy, even more people would be doing this. I guess we should be thankful it is not too easy.

Because there are so many of us wishing to be heard, legitimate businesses have cropped up that will take our money in exchange for that opportunity. In the old days, these people were called song-sharks. They were not concerned with actually delivering on the promise of making you or your song a star. They charged hundreds or even thousands of dollars with the empty promise of doing that. Their pitch was believable because it did indeed cost a lot of money to get a demo made, and time and connections it to the right people.

But now it is easy and cheap to make a demo. And contact to the world is an email away. So the song-shark business model has become a bit more honorable, if still little better than a lottery ticket. For a few hundred dollars you can join Taxi.com, or Broadjam.com for example, and submit your material for review.  These people act as middlemen to the music, advertising and movie industry who are always looking for artists and songs. It is still a crap shoot. But at least it’s on the up and up. Similarly, song writing and singing contests abound. They are in business to make money from all of us. It’s a game, and it doesn’t cost much to play. But it is not the real music business where artists are found and developed. Even though, now and then, a few are.

For every rule there is an exception, someone who steps outside the system and finds a way in that is contrary to the way business is normally done. These are the stories that are fun to tell and thus are the ones we often hear. A few are; Donna Summer singing in the toilets as a cleaning women and being heard by a producer who makes her a star. Teen-aged Diane Warren getting a job as a clerk in a music company in order to slip her tapes to anyone important who walked in the door. I slipped Johnny Cash’s limo driver a tape during a snow storm in Boston. He ignored me at first until I said, “Look at me, I’m old, I don’t have much more time!” He laughed and rolled down his window and took the tape, assuring me he would hand it to Mr. Cash that night. I followed up with the Cash organization but nothing came of it. The song is still a good one and perhaps I should do more limo stalking.

Good luck in finding your way through the music business maze.


Steve Rapson is the author of The Art of the Soloperformer: A Field Guide to Stage & Podium. He is a songwriter and concert guitarist with several CD’s in release. www.steverapson.com

Direct To Recycle: The Digital Age vs Hardcopy

Will CD's, like the yellow pages, become obsolete in the digital age?

The first week of January is telephone directory and Yellow Pages delivery day here in Boston, as it is throughout the US and probably the world. I remember in a pre-internet world how coveted and useful these books were. If you had three extension phones in the house, you got three of each book, and were happy to get them.

I snapped these pictures during my walk in Boston’s South End today. Virtually every house had a shrink wrapped bundle of Yellow Page Books unopened, and waiting for the recycle truck.

Is this not a disheartening sight for the advertisers who paid to be there?

Yes, the Yellow Book company and the Yellow Pages both have a websites that duplicate the books. But to me this waste of resources mirrors the recording artist making CD’s destined for a similar fate. And it is just as disheartening to me as a CD seller.

That’s why I make my CD’s in small batches, selling and making more as needed. The demise of hard copy is not totally upon us. But the shrink wrapped Yellow Pages in the snow are the only reminder I need that it soon will be. And I don’t want to end up with a cellar full of unopened cartons of CD’s, never to be sold.

Our digital audience is moving to a different distribution channel. We must move with them.

Just as we lamented the demise of records forty years ago–and all the graphic wonder that accompanied them–soon we’ll say goodbye to the graphically diminished, but still loved, CD. What new recording artist has not felt a palpable thrill upon holding their creation in their hands? Stripping off the crinkling shrink wrap, smelling the fresh ink, reading the lines written in thanks to others, all while listening to the sounds we have made. Our senses are deluged with the physicality of our creation. Even if we sell damn few, the joy of those moments is indelible.

The woodworker, the painter, the writer all get to hold their creation in their hands. Musicians will increasingly not have that pleasure. And writers may soon follow them.

So we will embrace the coming world. As artists always have. And just like our audience, we’ll snuggle up with our MP3 player, ear buds screwed in place, select one of the 10,000 songs on it, fire up our Kindle loaded with 1,000 books… and a fine Yellow Page directory which we can browse for the local pizza place… that delivers.

Not only is selling CD’s going to tougher, so is getting our audience out of the house.