For what it's worth for those songwriters wanting to market their original compositions to publishers for recording/release by other artists, below is a list of steps I compiled over time. I'd posted this list to a number of songwriting web forums (not this one) and newsgroups and was lucky enough to receive responses from some industry insiders. It seems I was pretty accurate. Caveat: I've been published, but I'm by no means an expert. Hope it's of some use to members here. Anyhow, here goes...
BTW, if any members here are 'in the know' about any/all of this, please feel free to advise.
1. Song is written: Where collaborators are involved in the writing, agree in writing whose contribution is worth what, who pays for what, responsibilities for shopping the song, making copies, keeping up on phone calls/correspondence, etc. Put it in writing and all writers sign.
2. Song Demo: Writer(s) get a REAL good demo done (many here are already able to do this on their own) -- especially with a great vocalist. If using a demo studio to record the song, be sure to get a proper 'work for hire' release agreement with the studio. Although good for the writer in principle, one insider told me he has rarely seen them used in LA or Nashville. Still a good idea IMO, and a reputable studio should have no problem in providing one.
3. Copyright: When demo is complete, writer(s) prepare and submit the appropriate U.S. Copyright Office Form (with audio recording) and $30 U.S. fee to Library of Congress to legally protect the song. If multiple writers, only one has to sign the form on behalf of all writers. Seems Form PA (or short version) is most often used. http://www.copyright.gov/forms/.
Apparently, if the song is 'placed', it's usually the record company that uses LOC Form SR to protect their master.
4. Writer(s) seek publisher: (Or if lucky enough, meet a famous artist . The annual 'Songwriter’s Market' is a very good source. Although many e-mail addresses are provided, e-mailing mp3s or providing links to song files, to publishers is not recommended. For some reason (maybe inundation) they want to put songwriters though the traditional (snail mail) process -- maybe it demonstrates seriousness. So, follow their instructions as outlined in the book. You can also look at the credits on CD's and find some small to mid-size 'legit' pub and develop a relationship via mail and phone calls. Don't forget to ask questions, including their 'roster' and successes. According to an insider, seems most are willing to listen if you establish that you're not a nutcase .
5. Publisher prepares contract for consideration of writer(s): Possible negotiation of terms depending on publisher past success and standing in the 'food chain'. If at all possible, have the publisher use the 'Popular Songwriters Contract' as provided free-of-charge by the Songwriters Guild of America http://www.songwritersguild.com/. This contract is seen to be a fair and balanced document that helps protect the writer. If forced to use a publisher's contract, reference the Guild's as a benchmark to compare. And you can always use the Guild's services to evaluate the contract you've been presented with. This is probably cheaper than a lawyer, and equally as effective.
6. Publisher Contract signed: Includes signing-over 'registered' copyright to publisher for XX years, with reversion clause.
7. Publisher demos (or re-demos based on quality of initial recording).
8. Publisher registers copyright: With Library of Congress under publisher name. Publisher submits the same U.S. Copyright Office Form SR (with audio recording) and $30 U.S. fee to Library of Congress, but this time completes Section 4 of the form which allows the publisher to reference an official, agreed-upon publisher contract, where writer(s) have assigned the copyright to the publisher.
9. Publisher prepares and submits Performing Rights Organization (e.g. BMI http://www.bmi.com/; ASCAP http://www.ascap.com/ace/ACE.html) song registration form: An insider reports that at least in nashville, the PRO clearance is normally not filed until there is at least a "hold" for the song (with an artist) -- seems they don't clear songs just for the sake of doing so -- until needed. If previously unpublished, writer(s) may want to join same PRO as publisher. Most publishers are members of both, but must use separate companies to do so. Bear in mind however, that publishers come and go, so it may be best to join the one that's right for you (do your homework here, 'cause which is better is a discussion unto itself). Writer(s) can register the song as independent writer(s) (if PRO-affiliated) without a publisher -- but it is not recommended. In time, if desired, a writer can also achieve (self) publisher status.
10. Publisher (hopefully) actively promotes song to recording artists, recording labels, producers, etc. for period of time as stipulated in the contract.
11. Deal is signed with artist/label, song is recorded, distributed, performed.
12. Royalties collected by PRO and distributed to publisher.
13. Publisher distributes writers share of royalties to writer(s).
If not successful, after copyright 'reversion clause' expires...
14. Copyright officially returns to the writer(s)
15. Writer(s) return to step 4, or put the song on-the-shelf.