5 A&R Tips for Songwriters
Songwriting can be perplexing when trying to pitch your songs
We found a great piece from American Songwriter that
provides some insight into the way A&R people think about songs.
(Original Article has been Edited)
– Mike Errico for American Songwriter
What does a major label A&R really want from a songwriter?
Is it a wild, eye-catching subject line in an email?
100,000 Instagram followers?
An unmarked box with a Rolex and a download code dangling
from the wristband?
Here’s what they said:
1. Write to the Left
For artists: “The core of why people do A&R is they want to find
exciting artists that aren’t represented in the marketplace. They
want to fight for them. So, there’s more upside in discovering an
artist that’s onto something totally new than an artist who
follows in another artist’s footsteps.”
For writers: “I’ll have conversations with writers who’ll say, I
have a perfect song for X. And they’ll send me a song, and it’ll
sound like something that was on X’s album, or it’ll sound like
something X would sound good on, but they don’t realize that
I’m hearing the best writers in the world and their best
song for X.
And X doesn’t need not-as-good versions of things X has
already put out. An artist wants songs that have a lyric, or a
sense of something that speaks to them—something
subconscious that maybe even they weren’t aware of.
They have to think:
- Wow, that’s an incredible story, or lyric, or narrative
- that I identify with
- I would never write this myself
- I have to sing the song
2. The Best Hit Songs Don’t Sound Like Pitch Songs
“It has to be an ‘artist’ song—something an artist would
become a fan of because they would listen to it. You have to
think about the artists.
- Where are they in their life?
- What is inspiring them musically?
- What do they care about?
Sometimes that’s hard to do in a pitch situation if you don’t
know the artists, but maybe you can get as much information
as you can and try to channel that in your writing.”
3. Artists Don’t Like Demos That Sound Like Them
“Writers will send a demo that sounds like the artist they’re
pitching the song to. Artists don’t like that.
I’ve worked with lots of artists with ‘big’ voices, and we would
get all these songs with singers that would try to sound like
them and it was just—it was bad.
People would even try to do the inflections or signature
things that the artists do. That’s just . . . no.
‘Oh man, X is gonna love this.’ [Laughs] It’s funny how some
writers think. But those songs never got cut.”
4. If It “Sounds Like a Hit,” Beware
“When someone says, ‘It sounds like a hit,’ I actually get a little
bit worried because that means that it’s borrowing from
something someone else has already done.
That can be good, but I’m always cautious of that phrase. It’s
behind the curve.
* You must always check your song for copyright infringement, it is
5. Set the Bar Higher
“Writers will say they have incredible songs, but they ‘just need
the right person to hear them,” – that’s why they haven’t
broken through yet.
But the reality is that the songs are just probably not good
enough. The writers haven’t pushed themselves hard enough.
Maybe they haven’t worked on their craft enough.
Writers have to think like that—like the bar is that high.”