Believe it or not, not all artists write their own songs. For various reasons many of them “cut” songs or even sometimes buy them outright from songwriters that pitch songs to artists.

When an artist “cuts” a song, it means the songwriter and artist or label will enter into a contractual agreement that allows the artist (or label) to license, record, and release the song, either as a single or on an album. The term “pitching” — sometimes called “plugging” — is when the songwriter submits a song to an artist or artist management through various methods including publishers and professional song pluggers.

If you’re wondering if your song is ready to pitch to an artist, here are some guidelines and questions to ask yourself.

Is it “commercial?”

First, the song needs to be commercially appealing; this often means that it follows a similar trend to what you hear on radio. Use the radio and the billboard chart (i.e. Top 40) to understand the types of songs that are trending and what’s hot. Writing an outdated song, even several months before the current trend, will significantly lower your odds of successfully pitching your song. Stay with the current times or, better yet, attempt to get ahead of them.

Keep the lyrics tightly focused

Your lyrics need symmetry and singularity to the core concept of the song idea. What this means is keeping the whole of the song about one very specific subject matter or idea. The verses and choruses should directly support the hook or title of the song. In every line that you write, ask yourself “Does this agree with the concept of my song and does it bring added value in each new line?” The types of words and lingo you use need to also be trendy or similar to Billboard charting songs.

Is the vocal part consistently catchy?

Vocal melodies: This is a tricky one. It’s somewhat subjective as to what a commercial vocal melody sounds like because many writers will interpret that differently. The point is to have “catchy” melodies and you may need to work with someone who knows how to write catchy melodies in order to understand how it’s done.

The demo needs to deliver

Lastly, but most importantly, the song demo needs to be strong and well representative of the commercial identity you envision for your song. A weak and poorly recorded demo will squash your chances of getting a song cut with a major artist. You don’t necessarily have to have a fully produced demo but it is highly recommended to record a full production demo with a skilled producer; that will greatly increase your chance of landing your song with an artist. If you can’t afford to go that route then a well-recorded piano or guitar vocal demo may suffice if it’s a really great song. Nonetheless, when in doubt, reach out to a professional that knows how to help improve your song.

Always continue writing songs to improve your skills. They say practice makes perfect and there is no exception in songwriting.