This week I’m talking with my old friend Eric Hurt who has spent over 20 year as a song plugger, publisher and A&R rep working with some of Nashville’s biggest music companies and songwriters. We are discussing what it takes to work as a song plugger and publisher. Setting yourself apart so that people find value in who you are and will want to work with you. The importance of showing up and giving your all so that industry people will start noticing you. Plus, two of the most important ingredients to be successful in the music industry.
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*The people who are most successful are the ones who don’t give up.
*Find ways around “no.”
*Went to Belmont University for composition and arranging. Although I wasn’t required to have an internship with my degree, I realized the importance of having one so I could network and get to know people.
*I got an internship at a publishing company called Almo/Irving which is the best thing I have done in my career to set up me for success.
*Laws have changed and it has become more difficult to get an internship if you aren’t in school.
*You can still get an internship without going to college and going through an internship program, but you will probably work with a small company instead of one of the larger companies.
*I ended up at Forefront Records for a while, but stayed in touch with the people at Almo/Irving and they recommended me for a position as a song plugger for producer Joe Scaife at Cal 4 Entertainment. That happened because I maintained my relationships with people at Almo/Irving.
*Be patient, not pushy.
*A song plugger is someone who maintains relationships with all the labels and A&R teams. They also build relationships with all the publishers. You keep up with all the artists in town that are working on records and the kind of material they are looking to record and when your client (songwriter) has a song you feel works for that artist’s project, then you take that song to the record label or producer or artist and play it for them to try to get them to record it on their album. You try to get the songs into as many hands as possible.
*A song plugger also sets up co-writes with other writers or artists.
*Song pluggers can work for a company or independently.
*Liz Morin and Ronna Reeves are great independent song pluggers. But they don’t work with just anybody. It has to be artists they feel like has a home somewhere.
*If you hire an independent song plugger, make sure they have good relationships with the people in the industry.
*If you want to be a song plugger, you have to be very outgoing, social and love meeting new people. Be comfortable in a lot of different scenarios, one-on-one or with a room full of people. You need to look for companies that have success because they are going to help set up initial meetings for you as a song plugger so you can get to know the high up people at labels and publishers, etc.
*After a while I decided to go back to making music and stepped away from the business side, but after a few years I realized I preferred the business side of music.
*I came back and worked at Brentwood Benson Publishing as creative director basically doing the same thing I had done as a song plugger with the other companies, but on a larger scale.
*Whether you’re an artist or want to be on the business side there are 2 things that there are no substitutes for: Patience and hard work.
*Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s.
*For the past few years I worked for Black River Entertainment doing publishing and setting up co-writes, looking for songs, etc. I signed an artist named Willie Jones to a publishing deal which led me to working with my current company EMPIRE.
*If you are in a creative position at a publishing company, you are setting up co-writes, pitching songs, dealing with A&R on signing new talent to pub deals, etc.
*Most people think of A&R as being only on the record label side, but there is that same element when signing writers to a publishing deal.
*I’ve been diligent learning multiple sides of the industry, broadening my web of contacts so that I can move in different areas and genres and pivot as needed which has created value over time and led to multiple opportunities so that people are always reaching out to me for a position, not me seeking out new positions for myself.
*When I sign a writer for EMPIRE I look for people that already have a team around them and they have some momentum at what they are doing currently.
*At Black River Entertainment it could be a brand new writer that had no cuts but was could at tracking and producing.
*Sometimes it’s knowing when to sign new young writers and knowing when to sign anchor writers that have had hits over their career.
*At EMPIRE I am the VP of A&R launching the Nashville division. They’ve had lots of success in the urban space including Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, Snoop Dogg, etc.
*They wanted to get into country music so I am spearheading that by offering something with an urban philosophy and mindset on how we partner with artists and put music out.
*When you’re married you have to have a supportive and understanding spouse. It’s a lot of odd hours. You have to have a balance and make sure you have family time. When your off, be off.
*Learn the power of “no.”
*If you learn when to say “no” that can make you more valuable and more respected to people.
*If you want to work for a label, publisher, etc. or get signed to one as an artist or writer, you need to move to a music town that does those things and immerse yourself in the genre and the side of the business you want to be on.
*Find out where things are happening, where the influencers are, where people in the music community hang out so you can show up be around it.
*In Nashville every Monday is Whiskey Jam where a lot of artists perform and every Tuesday is Tin Roof Revival. Show up and be there because industry people go to those events and you can rub a lot of elbows and start building relationships in a really authentic way.
*Don’t be pushy or try to rush anything.
*Find people you connect with.
*Just show up in everything you do.
*Show up to the city you want to be in, the events you want to be at, to work, your co-writing session on time and early and people will start noticing.
With over 20 years experience in Nashville’s music industry, Eric Hurt is the first official team member of EMPIRE Nashville as their VP of A&R, spearheading EMPIRE’s Country initiative around Willie Jones with one of his first EMPIRE signings being iHeart Media podcast & soundtrack Bear and a Banjo; produced by T Bone Burnett, narrated by actor Dennis Quaid, and written by Grammy winning producer/writer Jason Boyd aka Poo-Bear and Jared Gudstadt. The project features Zac Brown as well as a song co-written with Bob Dylan. Previously, he was Sr. Director of Creative at Black River Publishing in Nashville representing 5x #1 hit writer/producer Josh Kerr, Black River artist Abby Anderson, producer Bobby Huff, among many others.