Single Songs and Spec Pitches
Many smaller publishers will either offer you a single-song contract or, if they know and trust you, a spec pitch. On a single-song contract, you temporarily assign a publisher the publishing and administration rights to your song. In exchange, the publisher will attempt to get your song recorded by a major label.
If the publisher accomplishes this within the period specified in the contract, that publisher gains control of copyright and publisher's royalties for your song for at least thirty-five years. The publisher may pay for a demo, give you money, advance you a small amount to be recouped later, or none of the above.
On a spec pitch, someone pitches your song with the understanding that, if he or she gets it cut, you'll sign over all or part of the publishing as soon as you receive confirmation of the song's status from the record company. Spec pitches are fairly common in Nashville, but less so in other places. Don't expect an advance, help with a demo, or anything other than a pitch from a spec deal. With a spec pitch, be even more scrupulous than if you were under contract: If you ever burn someone on a spec deal, you may never work again.