Sooner or later we all need help in our songwriting careers. Generally, the earlier you are in your journey, the more help you’ll need but I’m twenty-five years in and still need a hand from time to time. The key is not in avoiding help but, rather, in knowing how to ask for help and what to do if/when you receive it. To that end, I’ve put together a few semi-gentle reminders for songwriters on the subject.

Understand that you’re asking for a favor

I understand – all too well – how it feels to be so excited about your songs that you can’t imagine anyone NOT sharing your feelings and wanting to hear what you’re working on. This usually manifests itself in the form of a request that someone in the industry listen to your material and give you their opinion. From the songwriter’s perspective, these are the only songs you think about and it seems like a reasonable request. However, if we stop and consider for a moment what it’s like on the other side of the desk, we’d see that industry decision-makers are inundated with requests to listen to songs. Even professional songwriters are often swamped with requests to take time out of their days to listen to the songs of up and coming writers. The reality is that most working music professionals have plenty to do as it is and if they take the time to listen to your songs it will be as a favor. Just keeping this in mind will go a long way.

Be very clear in your request

If and when you decide to make a request for assistance in some way, make sure you’re clear about what it is that you want. This could be anything from a ten-minute chat to a professional opinion on one of your songs (generally one song is the maximum you can request someone listen to outside of the context of a paid consultation) to even a simple recommendation as to how to proceed in some area of the industry. All this to say, be clear and specific so that the person to whom you’re making your request will know whether or not they can help.

Be appreciative

One of the elements of a request for help that unfortunately goes out the window is the appreciation that you’re receiving a favor. Properly thanking someone for taking time out of their busy schedule to help you would seem an obvious thing to do but it’s sadly lacking in my experience. A simple thank you note or even an email goes a long way towards showing the person who has helped you that you don’t take their efforts for granted.

Ask if you can return the favor somehow

Early on in your songwriting career, you might not have a lot to offer someone in the industry but, then again, you might. When asking for help, it never hurts to also ask if there is some way you might be able to return the favor. You might have a skill set outside of your songwriting that a music industry exec might find useful. All this to say, making an effort to return the favor is always a good policy.

Don’t take it personally if the answer is “no” (or you don’t get a response)

I have an expression that I often use when asking for a favor that goes, “If I can ask, you can say ‘no’.” If your request for a favor is declined or – as is more often the case – unacknowledged, don’t take it personally. Sometimes people are dealing with things we don’t know about or simply aren’t in a position to help in the way we’d imagine. You should expect to encounter at least as many “no” responses as “yes” responses. In fact, the way you handle the “no” you receive might set you up to hear “yes” from that same person in the future.


There is absolutely no shame in asking for help as you navigate your way through your songwriting career. That being said, remembering that you are, indeed, asking for a favor and being appropriately mindful of that fact will serve you well. Also, for reasons of karma, it never hurts to remember to help someone else out from time to time if and when you can.

Good Luck!

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12 responses to “The Right Ways Songwriters Can Ask For Help”

  1. Eryn Michel says:

    Great advice, Cliff! Thank you. That’s particularly helpful advice for me on how to handle a no (and how to be open to it going in). I also never thought of offering to return the favor right away.

    As a lieutenant of mine used to say, “If you don’t ask, you’re already at no!”

  2. Fabulous advice Cliff – thanks for sharing your wisdom and expertise! Manners go a long way in every aspect in life….and being humble and open to learning…G’Day from Nelson Bay, NSW, Australia, Lee J. Collier

  3. Joe Gothard says:

    Very good. Thank you.

  4. Rosa M. Naranjo says:

    I do not find words to express how greatful I feel for having a mentor like you. You possess the required wisdom to guide me as a songwriter and help me to overcome all posible challenges. I may face. God Bless you. Thanks, Rosa

  5. Rogerio Boaventura says:

    Thank you for valuable insights!

  6. Inez Lasso says:

    Dear Cliff,

    I hope you know how much I valued your help in guiding me to take my songs from just okay to now being recognised. I will be forever thankful to you you for believing in me.

    My best,

  7. Gary Nobile says:

    Thx Cliff! I remember the first time I said to a high level publisher, “can I help you in any way?” The moment the words left my mouth I felt like an idiot. Here I am a nobody and I’m offering help. The look on his face told me he didn’t hear that very often and he seemed genuinely appreciative. Good if you to share.

  8. Tom Rose says:

    Well said, as usual. Music business etiquette is a sensitive business and it’s easy to be too forward too soon. Still, I think sometimes, you just gotta ask, as it may be your only chance with that person. However, tact must always be present. I regret a couple chances I didn’t take but am thankful for dozens of other ones where I knew enough to shut up and not make a poorly thought out, amateurish pitch!

  9. Ricky Young says:

    Good advice. I haven’t thought about offering my own skills in return. Everyone could use some extra help now and then. Thanks for all you do! You are appreciated more than you know!

  10. Tyler Morger says:

    Thanks for sharing some wisdom Cliff!
    Happy New Years.

    Tyler Morger

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