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Do's & Don'ts of Pitching Your Songs in New York City (By Someone Who Barely Has a Clue)
By Jennifer Haase - 08/03/2010 - 10:35 AM EDT

OK, mine is not a how-to column and this writing is about just one Song Pitch event and, OK, I only pitched one song at this thing…..BUT….I learned a plethora of pertinent information that every songwriter should know and apply immediately.

Seriously.  Do not sit there without a pad of recycled paper and a sharpened #2 pencil.   Fill your tea cup now.   Let the copious note-taking begin.

This information will save you loads of time, stress and sulking embarrassment.  It will also happily shed light on the fact that your songwriting career does have some amazing support right under your nose. 

Ready?  Let’s begin.


Do RSVP to attend the next Songwriter’s Pitch-a-Thon of New York (SPONY) monthly event or their next online event when offered, if you’re an out-of-towner.   You can do that at You will benefit greatly from the experience.  Keep reading and I’ll tell you how.  


Don’t own a van with 216,000 miles on it that starts finally falling apart the week of the SPONY event.  An event that’s taking place 140 miles from your front door.    

I know, I know.   You’re a songwriter.  You live on cold spaghetti and you reuse your paper towels.  Owning a working car at all is a huge accomplishment for you, but trust me….when the speedometer clicks over 215,000 start talking marriage with someone at the Honda dealership and pronto. 

Your van is suddenly in no shape to get you there.  Your only option is to take the bus.  A ride that costs eighty-one dollars round trip.   You, of course, don’t have eighty-one dollars because you wisely invested those funds in spaghetti and paper towels. 

Read on. 


Do call your Emmy-nominated recording engineer to whine about the fact that you really NEED to attend the SPONY event, but woe-is-you times are hard and all that jazz.  You see, if your Emmy-nominated recording engineer has lately been working with folks like Lady Gaga, Lucie Arnaz, Tyler Perry & Cast, etc., it’s possible he might have enough room on his credit card to throw you a bone and loan you the eighty-one bucks for the bus. 

Score!  Your recording engineer, Robert L. Smith, comes through.  You send all your friends to thank him at and congratulate him on the new Emmy-nomination. 

As for his credit card…my advice?  Weeping helps. 


Don’t forget to burn three CDs with the one song you’re allowed to pitch at the SPONY event.   One CD is for playing during the event.  The other 2 CDs are in case more than one of the three Music Biz panelists selects your song as a “Keeper” to take back with them for more consideration.   If my notes are correct, of the nearly 60 songs played at the event I attended, 12 of them were selected as a “Keeper” by at least one panelist. 

Was my song a “Keeper?” 

Keep reading.


Don’t forget to print out 3 copies of that song’s lyrics to take with you. 

And don’tforget to print out those lyrics before the morning of your very long bus ride into NYC.  Because if you wait until that morning, you might remember that your printer’s ink cartridge has been empty since March.  (The last time you had money for more than spaghetti.)

And when you think to yourself “Heck, no problem, I’ll just print out the lyrics on Matthew’s computer in Harlem before I dash for the subway downtown” you are so blindly adorable for thinking that way.    

Guess what? Matthew Stillman, your former roommate in Harlem who is putting you up for the night, won’t be home when you get there.  He’ll probably be sitting at a folding table down in Union Square offering Creative Solutions to strangers & the occasional recognizable celebrity. (Don’t believe me? Read his way cool blog here: Well, good thing you have a key to the apartment to let yourself in, but what you don’t have is a compatible language between his printer and your laptop.  You learn that the hard way. 

You will waste time futzing with his printer with no luck.  You will run in a panic to the nearest FedEx and spend five bucks you don’t have using their computer to download your lyrics for printing, but you won’t get it to print right so you have to start over…

By the way, there’s no screaming and stomping allowed in FedEx.   Lesson learned, FYI.

By now, you don’t have time to shower and pretty up, being that you’re one of those unorganized creative-types, so you’ll have to tuck your humidity-hair in a ball cap and hit the subway running.

I have completely lost track of where we are in this story.  Are you still with me? Are you writing this down?


Do make it on time to the SPONY event after all, down at Pearl Studios on 8th Avenue.

Do find a good seat among the other 58 songwriters, most of whom are a good 20 years younger than you. 

Do think its way cool how this event is conducted, because it is.   All songs are given an identification number and played for the room in random order.   No songwriter names are identified unless the song is chosen as a “Keeper.”   If the song is a “Pass” (meaning none of the panelists are interested, so sorry) your name remains under wraps, which keeps it all nice and dignified for the folks who weren’t selected. 

DO LISTEN closely to the song snippets being played, one by one.  Many of the 12 “Keepers” at this particular event had several things in common.   1. Short intros.  2. Quickly rising melodies from first verse straight to chorus.  3. Weren’t called “Breathe.”  (There were several songs submitted called “Breathe” and, if memory serves, I don’t think a single one of them was selected. Coincidence? Perhaps. What do I know?)


Don’t wince noticeably when your song (#29) “New Pink Sweater” is finally played and, yep, all three Music Biz panelists ring their “I’m done listening now” bells before the first chorus even begins. 

Your intro is long.  Your Verse-Verse-Chorus progression makes them sleepy.  Your song’s cutesy theme and pop-twang sound isn’t what these folks are looking for, but don’t take that personally.  As SPONY host, Joy Novie, says herself a “Pass” on a song on a particular night doesn’t necessarily mean your song hasn’t got the stuff.  It just doesn’t have the stuff that these specific Music Biz panelists need.  

Don’t quit being a songwriter.  Don’t send your record producer an emotional “Goodbye & Good Luck” email.   We all know how that would turn out.  (See first essay in this column for that old chestnut.)


Do learn from what you just heard, while still embracing your unique songwriter voice.  As they say, take what you need and leave the rest. 

Do have fun.  Enjoy the process as much as you can, because if not for some sense of joy as songwriters, what are we doing here?

Do thank the host for a great event, because it was.

Do say you’ll be back next time, because you will.  And next time you’ll have applied your first go-round notes to the next song pitch submission, as well as studied up on the Music Biz panelists and their needs a bit more before show time.

Do tell them I sent you.

Do tend to that Honda dealer marriage proposal thing.   Invite him over for spaghetti. 

(Curious to hear the song I pitched that night that wasn’t selected as a “Keeper?” You can listen and comment on “New Pink Sweater” at this link: )

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