The song plugger is the person behind the scenes pitching a songwriter’s composition to producers, A&R reps, managers, and music supervisors. With their help, songwriters can hear their words in the mouth of the diva of the moment or on the soundtrack of a hit TV show. Song pluggers can work as independent contractors representing several songwriters or in-house at a publishing company.
Independent song pluggers represent songwriters who have not assigned their rights to a publishing company, as well as signed composers who want additional support for their catalog. In-house song pluggers may be responsible for a dozen or more writers with hundreds of songs to push; sometimes equal attention cannot be given to each client. Songwriters pay freelancers a retainer for their services, while in-house professionals receive a salary from the publishing company, but otherwise the responsibilities are the same. Clients are typically established songwriters with numerous cuts and at least a handful of hits. Few established song pluggers take a risk on new writers because without a solid reputation and name recognition, it is nearly impossible to place a song with a major artist or studio.
A song plugger helps clients to craft polished demos and works on behalf of the writer to actively pitch material to record label A&R, artist management, and for placement in films, television, and video games. Rather than taking the shotgun approach by sending out dozens of pitches hoping to hit a target, this person is careful to identify a song that he or she is confident matches the singer, film, or game. The song plugger excels in making connections between a certain composition and the right musical act or project. This person has an ear to the ground to catch rumbles of a band working on a new album or music supervisor shopping around to complete a soundtrack. When the song plugger gets a tip, he or she will work the Rolodex for a contact close to the project and set up a meeting. This is where networking and personal relationships matter; it is easier to get some time with a close colleague than a complete stranger. During the meeting, the song plugger will play one or more tracks for consideration and try to convince the intended buyer that the song is a surefire hit and is well-suited to the band, game, or show. It may take numerous meetings, and it may take months as the song passes up the chain of command before it gets the green light. If the buyer passes, back to the drawing board. If the song is accepted, the plugger will facilitate the deal.
Skills & Education
There is no standard educational requirement for this position, but a degree in entertainment business or a music-related field is one way to learn how deals get made. Coursework in music history and entertainment or copyright law is also useful. A good song plugger is well-connected in the music business, has experience working with artists, producers, and record labels, and has a good ear for all musical genres. Excellent networking skills are required, and you must be tenacious at hunting down leads, while personable and friendly enough to make lasting relationships.
What to Expect
Music is a people business; your access to decision-makers is based on who you know and your reputation. You can’t pitch if you can’t get a meeting; you can’t get a meeting unless you know people. Creating relationships with as many industry professionals as possible is priority one to start a career as a song plugger. There are a lot of posers out there who con independent songwriters into shelling out a few hundred dollars for a retainer, but never generate movement on their catalog. If you want to be taken seriously, you’ll need several years of experience working on the business end of the industry. Even office assistant work at a record label is helpful in making connections and building name recognition. Taking an entry-level position with a publishing company or rights management organization may give you the opportunity to learn from within and progress up the ladder if you can prove your passion and competence. Successful song pluggers may have the opportunity to cross over into A&R, management, media buying, or artist relations.
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