What Music Publishers Are Looking For

Carla Wallace is the co-owner and CEO of Big Yellow Dog Music, an independent music publishing and artist development company based in Nashville. She launched the company in 1998 with co-owner Kerry O’Neil and currently leads a songwriter roster that includes four-time GRAMMY-winning songwriter Josh Kear, GRAMMY-winning artists Meghan Trainor and Maren Morris, Jessie James Decker, Logan Mize, Claire Guerreso, Adam Sanders, Chris Gelbuda, Abe Stoklasa, Daniel Tashian, Keelan Donovan, Tenille, Kate York, Alexi von Guggenberg, Leah Nobel, Justin Forrest, Dan Agee, Ellee Duke, and Connor Thuotte. In 2012, Wallace was named one of MusicRow’s Rising Women on the Row, as well as one of Billboard’s Top 40 Women in Music.

 

 

Carla talked about why she got into music publishing and how the industry has evolved since she started her company. She also shared some insights about sync writing and how artists can become career songwriters.

 

Music Consultant:

 

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Carla. How and why did you get into publishing?

 

CW:

 

A friend of mine was working for an indie pub company, Bluewater Music at the time I was in college getting my degree and said they were hiring for a receptionist. I took the job and stayed there for maybe 4 years working my way from receptionist to creative director. I had a blast, it was great fun working around writers, watching them create, seeing their success and hearing their hits on the radio. Publishing probably found me and I never left.

 

Music Consultant:

 

As someone who has been in publishing for a while, how have you seen publishing change over the last several years?

 

CW:

 

Nashville Publishing has definitely changed! I think we are all more open to working with the diverse music being made here and finding ways to exploit the music, whether that’s through DSP’s, branding, synch related placements and our start up label Big Yellow Dog Music as a way to offer platforms for launching artists.

 

Music Consultant:

 

From my perspective, it does seem like the publishing side of things is doing more with artist development than it used to. Has that been your experience?

 

CW:

 

BYD has always been a place that signed artists. We established an independent label to do everything that is needed for each of our artists to help them get signed to a major label.

 

Music Consultant:

 

And what compels you to work with an artist? What qualities make really get your attention?

 

CW:

 

I look for great artists that make me want to whack someone over the head with my excitement about how great their music is. I look for songs that I can’t listen through the whole song without stopping it to hear it over again before I’ve even finished the chorus. I love artists that are rooted in a nostalgic sound but maybe they don’t know it’s within them. To me every writer or artist I’ve worked with reminds me of something I’ve loved about the music I grew up listening to.

 

Music Consultant:

 

When I was at record labels, what moved the needle for me was when I wanted to be in the band. That was when I knew I should work with them. There had to be a real passion for the artist and for the music there.

 

I want to talk to you a little bit about sync. We’ve been talking about great songs and voices and artistry. There are obviously a lot of people who are capable of creating custom music, music libraries and the like. What qualities do you look for when you’re looking for music that will be a good fit for sync opportunities?

 

CW:

 

I think what we look for when it comes to music is honesty. We don’t want something that sounds fake or like it was made specifically for a specific scene or commercial, etc. The artists we work with have real talent. The producers we sign to work on sync are excellent musicians and know how to amplify artistry in the context of a collaboration. We look for synch artists who can create genuine songs that are authentic to their artistry. From this we find homes for songs way beyond synch.

 

Music Consultant:

 

You touched on a topic very briefly that I think is worth talking about: co-writing. How important have you found that to be for your own clients and musicians as they are developing their careers as writers and artists?

 

CW:

 

Again, it’s all about the music and the artist and what that person can do on their own when they walk in the door. For instance, we work with Columbia Recording artist Maren Morris. This was Maren’s first publishing deal, so most of the songs she had were songs she wrote by herself.

 

That being said, co-writes are great for us because they create a community and help connect us to great publishers. Setting up our own writers with great writers from publishers provides a balance. We all get together and pitch songs and talk about them and how we can succeed together.

 

Music Consultant:

 

And one more question: If you could give aspiring artists general advice, what would you say?

 

CW:

 

Be hell-bent on what your message is. There’s a balance you have to achieve when trying to get your message heard. As an artist, you’re creating music for listeners, but you can’t forget to listen to yourself.

 

For more information about Carla Wallace and the work she does with artists, visit the Big Yellow Dog Music website. You can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter.