The other day I received the best “No” ever. I’ve decided this year that I’m going to start gearing some of my personal songwriting efforts into getting a cut. It’s always been a goal of mine, to have someone else sing a song I wrote. I grew up listening to country radio and then switched over to whatever they call it when they play Sarah McLachlan, Goo Goo Dolls, and Everclear on the same station (Adult Contemporary? Eh…). I also grew up listening to a lot of folks who wrote their own songs. Mary Chapin Carpenter is never, ever looking for songs to cover, and that is probably what made me start writing my own songs, too. You write them, you sing them. Easy!
Except there’s a whole industry centered around writers penning things for artists that sell a lot of records. About 5 people write every Rihanna song, and while that’s an elite group, there are tons of working songwriters all over the country and sometimes…they get songs on other people’s albums. My good friend Walt Wilkins currently has a song on the charts because Kellie Pickler cut it, and it is an amazing song (Someone Somewhere Tonight – check it). Commercial doesn’t always equate to “lame” as situations like this Walt song have taught me (oh, and the ever amazing “Wide Open Spaces” example penned by Susan Gibson thank you very much).
Anyway…I have a song I really think is something that should get “out there.” And there are companies that act as middlemen and send your work to publishing companies, who are in turn looking for songs for their artists. I wasn’t sure if these things were legitimate or not, but the opt in fee is low and there was a call for submissions for a country artist I love, so I sent it in, expecting nothing, really. After a few weeks I got the best, nicest rejection letter ever. In part:
“We, of course, realize this is disappointing to you, but please do not get discouraged as a writer. We can offer only one opinion in a world of many, and we can assure you that we have been wrong just as often as we have been right. That is the nature of the business that we are in. If anything, we would want to ENCOURAGE you and let you know that many professionals listened to, and discussed your work this week, and without exception, they were all impressed. Thank you again for a quality submission. We very much enjoyed listening to, and discussing your work.”
WHAAAAAT? That made my week. It continues to make my month, even.
This is hairy, weird business, especially when you start talking commercial and “hits” and “singles.” I’ve got friends who have been literally sucked in, chewed up, and spit back out of the Major Label Machine. But there are a number of people writing songs with integrity and heart, and those are the qualities that sometimes get through all the noise. Sometimes. You never get anywhere if you don’t try, though.