Songwriting from a Business Perspective
An insiders look at professional songwriters and how they do it
Having worked on the business end of music for a lot of years now, I have seen what does and does not work for songwriters. Given that several million people call themselves musicians, and a significant number of that group further classify themselves as songwriters, it becomes clear that only a tiny fraction are ever able to make it in the business of song writing. I won’t make any claims that reading this Hub will make you a songwriting star, but I can provide guidance that will at least help you leverage the talent you already have. These important steps will vastly improve you writing and you chances for success.
Write a lot
Far too many musicians think that their job begins and ends on stage, with a bit of writing mixed in as the mood hits. For a professional songwriter, that will not work. For every lucky break, there are thousands of productive and talented songwriters who never find their way out of obscurity. You cannot count on luck to build a successful songwriting career anymore than you can count on the lottery for your retirement. Hoping for luck is no way to move you career forward. What will help is writing; a lot. Like any other craft, the more you practice the better you will become. Every day will afford ideas for songs, and you should be writing with regularity. Keep a journal, use tools like you smart phone or you iPad to “sketch” your songs the minute you feel inspiration. There is no imperative that you finish your songs in a day, or a week, but get the ideas down, and spend time almost every day concentrating and writing.
Test you songs
More often than not, musicians believe their stuff is fantastic. You need look no further than the various music reality TV shows to discover the delusion among many, that they have talent. Don’t fall into the trap of believing your song is good, simply because you think it is good. Find venues to test you songs. Whether you play an open mike, a school event, or a real venue, look for opportunities to play your new catalog. Ask for reactions from people who will tell you the truth. You should also look to other writers to provide honest feedback on your work. The only way to correct as you learn is though honest assessments of your progress.
I just mention using other songwriters to test your material and get honest critiques. Session writing is among the most important step you can take in improving your craft. The energy and creativity you are able to harness when writing with a partner or in small groups can prove incredibly valuable in helping you to mature as a songwriter. Further, by scheduling sessions with other writers, you are forced to construct some discipline around your writing. Again, you must write with regularity to improve, and working with others writers can help you do just that.
Register your work
If you are a serious songwriter, you should already be registered with a Performing Rights Organization (The two largest in the U.S. are ASCAP and BMI). These are the organizations that pay you for the performances of your songs. If you don’t register, you are not likely to be paid. Further, these organizations allow you to register your works. The value of registration is twofold. First, by registering your songs, you have established your ownership in those songs. Obviously this can be incredibly important if you begin to make money on your catalog. Secondly, by registering you music, you are then able to potentially be paid for you work. Whether you music ultimately is performed on TV, radio, or simply by you in a public performances, once registered, your songs can begin to provide income.
This is certainly not an all inclusive list for finding success as a song writer, but it will get you moving in the right direction. In part 2 of this series, I will cover additional steps you can take to further you career as a songwriter, but until that time, get started on executing these steps, and start moving forward as a songwriter. The world can always use more good music.