As a songwriter, producer and publishing company head, we can be pretty sure Jenna knows her way around a deal.
Are there any obvious mistakes that artists frequently make when approaching a publisher?
“The most frequent mistake that I’ve seen is not understanding what you need from a publisher. Picking a publisher should be about the relationship you have with those who sign you, in other words, the people within the company that will back your music. Artists/songwriters frequently end up choosing a publisher based on a cheque and later complain about not having anyone to work their material. Yes, for a struggling artist/songwriter, the money may be very important but in today’s streaming world there is so much money to be made on the master side.
“As a songwriter, it’s almost more valuable to work on things that can get you a piece of the master. As an artist, maintaining your full ownership of the master can buy you time before signing the right publishing deal and allow you the space to release music independently.”
On the flip side, what are some things artists can do to impress you from the outset?
“Originality and drive are always impressive. If you are constantly putting everything you have/are into your craft then it’s just a matter of time until you get your shot. People always resonate with someone that is relentlessly themselves in all that they do, especially music.”
How much should an artist know about a publishing company in advance of approaching them?
“No matter how much research you do on a company, I believe it always comes down to your own personal experience and whether that particular company can help you achieve your goals. Again, it really comes down the right relationship in finding those who want to back you.”
What can an artist do to get the most out of their relationship with a publisher?
“Full trust and transparency are really important. There may be times where your publisher wants you to do something that you may not want to do, but being open-minded is really helpful in creating a good relationship. Also, know that you don’t always have to rely on your publisher to set everything up. Taking the initiative in creating opportunities for yourself will inspire your publisher/partner to work harder for you.”
Similarly, what should they expect from their publisher in return?
“You should expect follow-through, constant communication, and feedback from your publisher in order to grow. There will be 100 no’s for every yes, but your publisher should be there to ride the wave with you.”
How important are things like hard work and punctuality, as well as just natural talent?
“They are equally important! I can’t speak to the punctuality part myself [laughs] but I do admit that being on time reflects your respect for someone else’s time. With that, being punctual is always a good thing. On the topic of work ethic/talent, I believe hard work is almost more important than natural talent! Constantly pushing yourself and your craft is extremely telling in this line of business and will inevitably lead you to more opportunities.”
Will you get involved in their writing process?
“I will get involved in the writing process if need be. As a creative myself, one that started a publishing company, that is the value I bring. I have the availability to help “song doctor” – whether it be arrangement, melody choices, lyrical tweaks, etc. I think the ability to take suggestions and criticism is always necessary to grow and become better at any stage of your career!”
What attributes would an ideal client have?
“Honestly, everything I have mentioned above. Open-minded, hardworking, a unique sense of style, and perspective.”
Are there any lessons you’ve learnt since becoming a publisher that you wish you’d known all of your career?
“I’ve found that a lot of artists want to write their own songs, causing song pitches to be harder than ever to place. Through that, I have learned that bringing a song to its full potential is essential in landing a placement. Sending three incredible songs out (as opposed to 50 mediocre ones) lands a better result in the long run.
“On a personal note, being open-minded without jeopardizing creative integrity makes a huge difference in building with a team. You also can’t be afraid of taking chances. Picking a publisher, the team that will support and develop your music career, is a chance in its own.”
Is there anything else that an artist should know about working with a publisher?
“I think it’s important to let your publisher know exactly what your goals are:
- If you are an artist, then perhaps you’re adamant in setting up sessions for your artist project.
- If you want to write for other artists – song pitches and sessions with other artists.
- Or maybe you just want to write for sync.
“Ultimately, being clear about your goals and expectations is key when going into any publishing deal.”