Let me begin by saying that my intention in writing this article is to help you avoid some of the mistakes I unwittingly made early in my songwriting career. The kinds of mistakes I’m talking about are not done maliciously as much as they are a result of an unthinking set of behaviors based on being passionate about your music. However, like anything, stepping outside of yourself and remembering the big picture will help you navigate your career in a way that allows you to progress in a healthy, constructive way without alienating anyone in the bargain.

1. Sending a loooooong email with waaaaaaaay too much information

Generally speaking, when you are sending an email request to anyone in the music industry, it’s best to keep the email short, polite and to the point. Providing a lot of additional information about yourself or your songs before you’re asked significantly decreases your chances of actually getting a response. If you were to put yourself in the position of the person reading your email, you’d see fairly quickly that it can be overwhelming to tackle a long email and easier to ignore it. For you, it’s only one email but for a music publisher or label executive, it could be one of hundreds they have to get through on any given day.

2. Asking someone you don’t know to do you a favor right away

Another common mistake is to send an email to an industry decision maker you may have recently met asking them for some kind of favor or service right away. Often, it’s very clear what someone in the industry can do to help you but just because someone is in a position to help you doesn’t mean that you’re owed that help. Again, I understand that often this is unthinking behavior based on your passion for your songs but I’d recommend taking a moment to think about the basic rules of social interaction. It might be better to get to know someone for a while or even offer to help them first before asking them to help you.

3. Sending unsolicited music

This mistake not only runs the risk of branding you as an amateur but also almost certainly guarantees that your music will be ignored. Again, I understand the mindset. You have a song that you think will be perfect for an artist or film/TV placement and, for you, that’s the priority. However, most record label execs, music publishers and music supervisors have established channels for receiving submissions and are almost always overwhelmed by those submissions alone. Receiving submissions from an unknown source who hasn’t even bothered to ask permission before sending makes it fairly easy for the industry decision maker to ignore them. I understand it’s not easy to figure out what the established submission channels are but just because something isn’t easy, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Make the slow and steady effort to do things the right way and you’ll see the eventual results.

4. Submitting your music without actually knowing what someone does

I understand the desire to have your music heard. But randomly (or even semi-randomly) sending your music to people in the music industry in the hope that something good will happen isn’t a business plan. On top of that, you run the risk of appearing unprofessional. Take the time to find out what someone does and then if you think they might be interested in – or have a use for – your music, send a polite request asking permission to submit a song to them. This not only shows that you take your music (and their time) seriously but also significantly improves your chances of getting your music heard.

5. If you DO get a response, don’t forget to say thank you

Anyone who has spent any time trying to get a response from a music industry executive knows that it’s a rare and beautiful thing. I’d simply remind you to remember the rules of common courtesy and to thank the person for their time. It’s a little gesture but it goes as long way towards building the kind of goodwill that makes for a lasting and productive working relationship.


Writing good songs is hard enough. Why make things even harder for yourself and your career by not carefully considering the consequences of your actions? I’d recommend taking a deep breath before reaching out to anyone in the music industry and asking yourself if you’ve taken their situation – as well as yours – into account. If you use this approach as your guiding principle, I see good things happening for you over time.

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3 responses to “Five Major Email Mistakes Songwriters Should Avoid”

  1. Hi Cliff,
    I have been writing songs since I was 11 and I am now 67. I have recorded several CD’s and had one major label deal way back in 1973 on Paramount. Still continue to perform, write, and record. Have placed a few songs out of my catalog of many hundreds. But have not been very active with pitching my work over the years. Can you help this late bloomer? 😉
    All the best, Chris

  2. Karl Crosby says:

    When using collaboration as far as a professional producer and a songwriter in producing a demo.When the professional demo is completed. Who should make the preparation to send the demo to the music publisher?
    Should it be the professional producer, an entertainment attorney or a PRO like ASCAP?

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