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Q&A: My lyrics are being returned. What now?
By Mary Dawson - 06/02/2002 - 11:55 AM EDT

I have submitted some lyrics to a music publishing company creative director who reviewed them and was told that it was "good stuff". Now, I am being told that my material is being returned to me. What recourse do I have or what steps should I take now? Also, is there a step-by-step process of getting lyrics published?

Thanks for your email. You must be a very talented lyricist to have earned the comment you did from the publishing company.

I "never" like to use the word, "never," but I have to say that I have "never" heard of anyone breaking into the Music Industry as a lyricist only. While there are many professional songwriters who are mainly lyricists, they are always teamed up with a composer/musician to collaborate and create a finished SONG. It's important to realize that SONGS are the commodity of the Music Industry and songs are made up of WORDS AND MELODY. A writer who tries to become established in the industry with words alone would be like a shoe manufacturer who tries to succeed in the shoe industry by making only LEFT SHOES! Shoes are made to be sold in pairs and songs are meant to contain both words and music.

Your dilemma is THE most common problem I hear from lyricists, so I will give you my best answer. I suggest that you become very familiar with the music community in the city or town where you live. Attend concerts, songwriter's showcases, theater events. Absolutely join your local songwriter's organization -- there is one in most mid to large size cities. If there is a college or university in your area, go to the Music Department and let the director know that you are a lyricist in search of a composer. You will find talented musicians wherever you are located. Try to form collaborations with composers who understand and appreciate good lyrics. It's kind of like may take a few
attempts before you find a co-writer that you really "click" with, but don't give up. Eventually, you and your co-writer(s) will have completed some SONGS -- and then you will have something the Music Industry is interested in.

Lyrics by themselves are NEVER published by a music publisher, so there is no step-by-step process for that. But once you have SONGS, you can begin pitching them to both local and national artists. A very good basic book that you may want to read is John Braheny's "The Craft and Business of Songwriting," from Writer's Digest. Another good one is "The Songwriter's Guide to Collaboration" by Walter Carter (also Writers Digest).

I hope this helps. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance to you.

All the Best.... Mary Dawson

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