One of the questions I get most from beginning songwriters is whether there’s any risk or problem with getting their songs out there on social media, streaming services, websites or any other ways that songs can be heard by (hopefully) large numbers of people. It’s an interesting concern to me because, in my experience, the real danger lies in not getting your songs out there enough. I thought I’d spend a little time listing a few of the advantages and putting your minds at ease about some of the myths of making your songs publicly available.
The more your songs are out in the word, the greater the chance that someone in a position of influence will hear them. I spent way too many years demoing my songs and then dropping the ball when it came to getting them out there. The reality is that if you have songs you’re proud of and quality recordings of those songs, it’s in your best interest to get them heard by as many people as possible.
Putting your songs out on YouTube or any other social media site where the number of listens can be documented is a great way to show the music industry that your song is commercially viable. In other words, if your YouTube video has been watched a half a million times, that’s a fairly good indication (without you have to say so) that your song is interesting to people.
If the recordings you’ve made are not just demos of your songs but also a representation of you as an artist, putting them out on streaming services like Apple Music or Spotify can actually result in performance royalties. If that is part of your goal, make sure your songs are registered with your performing rights organization (BMI, ASCAP, SESAC) and that you’ve also signed up for and registered your songs with SoundExchange.
Another major concern I’ve heard expressed is that if a songwriter releases their song instead of just pitching it directly to the publisher, record label or artist, it will be perceived as “used” and not as interesting. Again, I can give you countless examples of artists who have cut songs that were on independent albums that were favorites of theirs. Secondly, think of all the hit songs that are re-recorded years – even decades – later and become hits again. In other words, a good song is a good song no matter when it was written.
A common concern that I hear among songwriters who are newer to the game is that if they get their songs out there someone will steal them. While I can’t promise that won’t happen, I can say that I’ve been writing songs for twenty-five years and the ONLY example I have of copyright infringement with someone I know was when their song was a #1 hit and another chart-topping song borrowed enough of their melody to result in a justifiable legal situation. My semi-serious suggestion would be to spend less time worrying about your songs getting stolen and more time working on songs that someone would want to steal.
Speaking of songs getting stolen, I get a lot of questions about whether songwriters should copyright their songs (with the Register of Copyrights in Washington, D.C.) immediately after writing them. I, personally, don’t register my songs that way unless and until they’re going to be available for commercial release. Strictly speaking your songs are copyrighted the moment you create them but for a more detailed description of why you needn’t worry, take a look at this insightful piece by Songwriter Universe.
Creative types like us struggle with self-promotion enough as it is. Don’t let unsubstantiated fears of stale songs or theft dissuade you from promoting your material in any – and every – way possible.