Some of us are asking…”Why can’t my publisher get me more song placements?” It wasn’t too long ago I was asking myself the same thing. But then I got to thinking: If circumstances make it harder right now for us to pitch our own material it’s got to be harder for them too. But take heart, songwriters. Pendulums swing. I say “right now” for a reason.
I remember being in a Warner Chappell writers' meeting with Judy Stakee circa late 90’s. (Yes, I go back.) (So does Judy.) She gathered us to brainstorm about what we could do to try to get more activity. Self contained grunge was all the rage. There was hardly any place to pitch a pop song. We were all beside ourselves. So everyone tried to write for Celine. Everyone. And Celine simply could NOT put all 4000 songs on her record.
What I loved about this meeting is that Judy didn’t mince any words. There was an elephant in the room that she chose to acknowledge rather than ignore. She told it like it was.
There was a mass exodus to Nashville. Even those of us who never wrote a country song bought a cowboy hat and a pair of Tony Lamas and booked a flight. That was fine if you knew what it took to write a country song. We all thought we did. What a fool I must have made of myself. (I didn’t buy the hat but I most definitely bought the boots.) In retrospect, any song I ever had recorded by a county artist was not a result of me going to Nashville to try to write one. That should tell you something right there.
Many of us waited it out. And right around the turn of the millennium there was this gold rush nobody could have predicted. My publisher would call me every week and say Guess What? We got you a placement with The Pretenders or Brandy or….fill in the blank.
What happened? Grunge ran it’s course? Cd’s were accessible? Tower records was booming? The pendulum swang? All of the above? Probably.
There’s another point to all this. Recently, while radio became deluged with EDM and swagger, I wanted to be part of that wave. Thing is… I’m not really good at writing those kinds of songs. Kudos if you are. I mean it. What I wouldn't would do to be able to be part of a “Fancy”. Or another “Teenage Dream”. But That’s Not What I Do Well. I can’t compete in those lanes. On those corners.
But I left my corner. I tried incorporating swagger and ‘hands in the air’ sensibilities. And then one day, when I was about to pitch a few songs, I scrolled through my recent playlist and realized…My songs sounded uninspired. They were all trying to be something I wasn’t. My songs were impostors. I had lost my own plot. :(
So, I switched gears. Not because I wanted more activity, (which I did) but because I was bored with myself. And that’s the worst person to be bored with. I got back on the track of doing what I used to do…writing what I’m good at...what gets me excited...rather than what I think radio wants.
And after I made this adjustment, a couple of magic placements came out of left field that I was like WHat? Of course I’m not going to reveal details because as we know, in the business of songwriting, most things that are definite have a way of falling through.
Now, I’m not suggesting we never try to branch out. There’s no telling how we can expand if we don’t explore ourselves. And a certain amount of attention must be paid to what’s in fashion. But I suggest we take notice and then put it all to the side and do what we do best. You know what that is. Set yourself apart. All that attention paid to fashion will influence what we write. As it should. But we don’t have to be a slave to it.
Times are tough right now. It’s hard to get even an inspired song placed. But watch your head…pendulums DO swing. And? I like to believe there’s energy in work there is intention behind. And? Even if my song isn’t destined for hit radio, just the fact that I get up in the morning and the first thing I want to do is hear what I wrote the day before? Because I love it so much? That matters. A lot. Hopefully the rest will follow.