To Whom It May Concern:
Everybody in the world thinks they are a songwriter!
I've stopped mentioning that I am a music publisher because if I do it isn't long before someone whips out a CD featuring their latest creation, or tells me about a friend or relative who writes songs. And, those songs, in their opinion, are always "better than anything they hear on the radio."
The fact is very few have the gift, desire, commitment or drive needed to be a professional songwriter.
Being a songwriter isn't easy, it's a business, it's hard work - a good deal of which has little to do with creating music - and, the cold, hard facts are that 90% of those who seriously try to become professionals won't make enough money during their lifetime to feed their families.
So the very first thing I try to ascertain when meeting a new writer is how badly they want to succeed - how determined they are to make it. A primary indicator for me is if they have migrated to a center where music is being made where they can get involved in the community - politic, rub shoulders with the right people or with others that are trying to make it - hang out and find out what being a writer is all about.
Building strong personal relationships with others who share your passion for the music business - whether they are just starting out or have already established themselves - ranks right up there with overwhelming talent when it comes to getting a shot at success.
Once I've determined that a would-be writer has the commitment - next is to determine if they have talent. That's hard. Most new writers who actually have a shot are like uncut diamonds - there's a glimmer of something promising even if their earliest songs are awful ... a way with words, interesting progressions, an ability to turn tired themes into fresh thoughts - a way of looking at the world through different eyes.
Also an important consideration is if they are "hyphenates" - writer-artist / writer-producer / writer-musician / writer-politician.
I'm a tough audience. I've been around a while so I've pretty much heard it all. It takes something really special to grab my attention. It's got to be fresh it has to be in tune with today's artists, producers and audiences and it's got to be something I can believe in enough to want to lay my credibility on the line to sell.
I don't accept unsolicited mail or e-mail submissions - if your only commitment to your career is a drive to the post office, or to find some list of email addresses and blast your demos across the Net, you'll never write a hit.
I do like it when writers post their music somewhere on the Net; but, will say that I have only been moved a few times by anything I've heard that isn't already committed to some professional level relationship.
I've been blessed to have worked with some of the greatest writers in the world - those whom I've signed directly - those whose catalogs I've been charged with shepherding after their active careers were over - and those with whom I have written when songwriting was my chosen profession. I have a lot of time for 'star power' songwriters - whether they've already made it or are just starting out. They are special people with an incredible gift that allows them to create something from nothing that can touch people's lives in ways almost nothing else can.
Great songwriters truly are magic.
- Dean Kay