Penny Ferguson Picture

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   As I have written previously, the Lord did not call me to gospel songs writing until I spent years writing for a local magazine and writing national and internationally published articles, short stories and poems. Because of this, I come to gospel song writing with a different perspective on how writers should be treated by artists to whom they pitch songs. After many years writing gospel songs and communicating with other gospel song writers, I find we have a few pet peeves in common. What follows is meant to be a dialogue for positive change.

   Writing in other fields, writers put their manuscripts in the mail to a publisher with a reply post card or a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) or attach them to an e-mail. After a time (usually no more than six months), you hear back from the publisher whether the piece will or will not be published. If you have not heard by six months, you usually send a query asking the status of your work. Not so in the gospel song writing business. I should interject here, all of my comments are written from the point of view of someone  not in the inner circle of the business.
   At God’s inspiration, you write a song and make a demo to send out. You put it in the mail, e-mail it or hand it to an artist at a concert. The response time is quite possibilly NEVER. After waiting a respectable amount of time, you may e-mail or phone to make sure the demo has arrived. Usually, this is a frustrating waste of time. You a) still never hear anything, b) reach someone who has no idea if the demo has arrived, c) are told the artist/group will be listening to song in __ (pick a month) and you will hear then, but you never do. This seems to be standard treatment. In over fourteen years of pitching,  that has been my experience 98 per cent of the time. There have been a few gracious people who have taken the time to send letters, form letters or e-mails—Rodney Griffin and Mark Bishop to name a couple.
   On this topic, I want to give a special shout out to Jason Runnells. Jason, formerly with The Down East Boys, is now a solo artist, but he is also a writer. When I pitched to him recently, he e-mailed me telling me none of the songs were what he was looking for, but he also wrote, “I promise to listen to everything people send me.... I will always let you know.” Kudos to Jason and those few artists who feel it is important to treat artists with this kind of respect. The people I mentioned are all writers and, I am assuming, they treat others the way they would like to be treated.
   While on the topic of mailing or e-mailing demos and following-up on them, here is another pet peeve—artists who do not keep their contact information current! It is important to do this with The Singing News Source Book, business cards and so on--and especially web sites. A few months ago, I sent a group a demo using their web site contact information. I am in Canada. They are in the US. Canada Post charged me nearly $15 to mail the demo. Two months later it arrived back, indicating  there was “No such person at this address.” I went to their web site to see what mistake I had made in the address. I had made none. Their contact information was either incorrect or out-dated. This has happened numerous times.

   I often say as a Southern gospel song writer I am geographically challenged. Some American artists don’t take my work seriously because I’m not, well, American. Most Canadian artists don’t take my work seriously because I’m, again, not American. In the part of Canada where I live, we rarely see Southern gospel groups I can pitch to face to face. Unfortunately, there are rumors that circulate in the business about groups who do not take gospel song writers who are not top tier seriously.

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