Penny Ferguson Picture

The Right Song With The Right Artist

By Penny L. Ferguson

   So, you have written a wonderful gospel song that praises the Lord and encourages Christians. You feel it needs to be heard beyond the scope of your friends and ministry. What now? You will pitch it to an artist. They will love it. They will record it. Maybe not so. Even iconic gospel songs, like “Midnight Cry,” have been turned down before being recorded. If you are an insider, well-established in the business, you stand a greater chance of getting a song picked up by a group. If you are a neophyte or just barely have your toe (notice I said “toe,” not foot) in the door, as I do, you have your work cut out for you. One of my song writer friends, Frank Diehl, tells me, “I've had turndowns. I guess its part of the business and getting a song recorded today is harder

than pulling hen's teeth--too many ‘cousins,’ ‘in-laws’ and even ‘outlaws’ want their songs heard.” The first step in getting a song recorded is matching the right song with the right artist.
   To match the right song with the right artist, you have to know the artist and their music. Even this is no guarantee they will take the song you pitch. So how does one get to know the artist and their music? The obvious answer is get out to their concerts. Go to every gospel music concert you can. For some, this is easy to do as they live in areas where gospel music concerts are plentiful and churches frequently have in groups. In my area, this is not so. We rarely have concerts in the immediate area. For most of the concerts I attend, I have to travel fair distances. Round trip, I have travelled between 139 to 3134 (to the National Quartet Convention) miles to go to concerts. Even with my willingness to travel such distances, concerts are rare.
   At concerts, study songs the group/artist sings. Notice the tempos, styles, and themes they seem to prefer. Try to find out before concerts who is the person responsible for handling demos. Introduce yourself to them as a song writer and give them a demo. Do not monopolize their time at the table as there are usually many waiting to talk with them and make purchases. Purchase their most recent projects and study them for tempos, styles, themes and anything else you can learn for the next time you pitch to that artist.
   There are a number of other useful tools you can utilize to get to know artist to whom you pitch—especially if you don’t have access to them through concerts. One of the oldest tools is still very effective—the radio. Listen to gospel music programs to study groups and their music as suggested above. Where I live, I do not have much access to gospel music programming that plays the style of gospel music I write, but I am able to compensate for this in other ways. I find the radio programming I need via the Internet. We purchase downloads of “The Gospel Greats.” There are other shows that are wonderful to listen to, as well as useful to the gospel song writer.
   I also use YouTube to see and hear groups performing their songs. We stream live gospel concerts from churches that broadcast them on the web such as Lake Gibson Nazarene Church (Florida). Sometimes groups stream concerts live. TV shows such as “Gospel Music Show Case,” hosted by Guy Penrod, are useful as well. Subscriptions to magazines such as The Singing News can help song writers get to know groups and keep up on happenings. There are on-line magazines and web sites that can do the same.

   Google artists you want to learn more about. Many of them maintain web sites which can also be useful to song writers. Sometimes web sites will indicate to whom demos should be submitted. If they do not, they usually contain an e-mail address which can be used to make such an inquiry. Checking “Schedule” pages can let you know if the group/artist will be in your area for a concert.


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