Your 6 Great Obstacles to Conquer in the Music Industry
Without sugar coating it, making it as a songwriter is hard. Very hard. In fact, it may present one of the most challenging career paths there is.
Knowing that you face intense obstacles in the course that leads from writing to selling your songs can help you mentally and practically as you plan your strategy on how to be successful. Just like an obstacle course, the music industry has several key hurdles, snags, and stumbling blocks that you’ll have to overcome if you plan on making money at your craft.
Why You Should Have Others Critique Your Song
To share or not to share, that is the question – for songwriters, at least.
Many songwriters don’t want to preview their songs for anyone, usually due to fear or pride in their songs. They prefer to keep their masterpieces a secret from the world until the big day when they will make their grand entrance, top the music charts, and impress the masses.
Problem is, when songs are kept secret, songwriters miss the opportunity to gain valuable feedback from others. While it takes courage to let others give their opinions and constructive criticism, songwriters that do so will find answers to some crucial questions.
What a Songplugger Is and Why You May Need One
There are two halves to making money as a songwriter: writing and pitching. One of the most difficult and frustrating aspects of being a songwriter is trying to balance both halves. Many songwriters have great material but no plan to get it to market, while other songwriters confidently pitch songs that aren’t nearly good enough to be pitched in the first place.
Tip Sheets: Are They Worth It?
For many songwriters, tip sheets sound like the cure-all solution to their pitch challenges. They include valuable information such as what artists are looking for songs, what label and producer they are working with, when they need material, what type of material they are looking for, and what format they want the songs in (.mp3, .wav, etc). Tip sheets are provided by several companies such as RowFax and SongLink, and are usually distributed weekly (via email).
The Three Pillars of a Successful Songwriting Career
A songwriting career is sustained by three core pillars: Writing, production, and sales. Successful songwriters understand that all three are equally important, and that they all work together.
When songwriters seek to strengthen each of the three pillars and find balance among them, they are more likely to have a strong catalog of songs that actually makes it to market. On the other hand, being weak in any of these areas or focusing too heavily on one area will lead to poor outcomes.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Music Publisher
Many songwriters, particularly newcomers, often need help getting their songs placed successfully with artists and record labels. Since developing, growing, and strengthening a network is critical to generating pitch opportunities, songwriters that live outside of Nashville or those that lack sales skills often find themselves out of luck.
Songwriting: Playing the Numbers Game
Does your songwriting career at times feel like you’re playing an ever-eluding, hope-I-win-someday, roulette wheel? Since the music industry is based so much on subjective opinions that influence the destiny of a song, it may begin to feel like you’re in Las Vegas more than in Nashville.
Songwriting: a Hobby, a Career, or Both?
From fly fishing and painting to basketball and chess, there are those that do things purely for personal enjoyment (a hobby) and those that make money doing those same things (a career). Incredibly, both hobbyists and professionals can demonstrate great talent, enjoyment, and proficiencies in what they do.
The Self-Critique: 20 Questions to Ask About Every Song You Write
One challenge that songwriters face is knowing whether or not their songs have hit potential. While other people can offer their feedback and opinions about your songs, as a songwriter, you shouldn’t rely only on other’s opinions. You should be your own biggest critic. Before you work ferociously to pitch your songs, you should spend time doing a self-analysis of each song you have.
The Pros and Cons of Song Contests
Song contests are a great way for a songwriter to take a step forward in getting their songs heard, especially for songwriters who are caught in the trap of having their songs gathering digital dust somewhere on a hard drive instead of getting heard by industry professionals.
If you are considering entering a song contest, here are a few things to consider:
Why You Should Care About the Past, Present, and Future of Music Styles
Music is always changing. What was popular in the 1950s or 1980s (or any other decade) is dramatically different than what is trending now. As a songwriter, you have to know where the music industry has been, where it is now, and where it is going in the future to be successful.
As you look at your current song portfolio and what you are planning on writing in the future, remember these lessons from the past, present, and future of music to find greater success.
In the Loop: How to Stay Informed in the Music Industry
Successful songwriters have a strong awareness of what is going on in the music industry, including who the players are (artists, labels, producers, etc), what songs are finding success, where music is at, and what direction it is heading.
This information empowers them to make better decisions regarding how they write and pitch their songs.
How to Find That Next Killer Song Idea
What do the songs The Gambler (Kenny Rogers), Sold (John Michael Montgomery), Hillbilly Bone (Trace Adkins/Blake Shelton), Amazed (Lonestar), Dirt (Florida Georgia Line), and What Hurts the Most (Rascal Flatts) have in common?
In terms of tempo, melody, lyric, and concept, they have very little in common with each other. However, they were all based on killer song ideas that were then executed with precision.
How a Crappy Demo Can Kill Your Pitches
With the amount of time and energy you put into writing and pitching your songs, it’s often easy to lose sight of the second critical step to getting your song to market: the demo.
Demos are the salespeople that represent your songs in the intense, future-defining, heart-wrenching, life-changing pitch sessions with artists, publishers, and record labels. And just like an unlikeable salesman, a crappy demo can ruin a pitch session that could have otherwise gone well.
Faith and Fear as a Songwriter
And the paths that they lead to…
Fear and faith cannot coexist in a songwriter any more than light can coexist with darkness. Depending on which of the two emotions you have will affect your beliefs, thoughts, words, and actions. Ultimately, it will affect your destiny.
When you have faith, you believe in positive outcomes and hard work. When you have fear, you doubt. You wonder. You worry. You fail to act.
When you have faith, you set the goal to have a songwriting career filled with hits (and maybe even a timeless classic or two). When you fear, you make it a hobby or simply something you do to take the edge off your 9 to 5.
Do All Your Songs Sound the Same?
Songwriters aren’t the only ones that get in rut of churning out cookie cutter material. Marketing agencies, architects, coaches, painters – they all face the dilemma of sticking with what is comfortable or diversifying and trying new things.
For songwriters, this tendency to stick with what is cozy and easy leads to predictable melodic combinations, obvious chord patterns, similar tempos, cliché rhymes, overused themes, and canned structures. If you’re songs start to sound the same, it’s most likely a sign that:
To Be a Great Songwriter, Study Great Songs
The most proven path to success in anything is to find someone who excels at their craft and then follow in their footsteps. Every industry has their heroes who have walked this path – Oprah Winfrey (TV), Michael Jackson (music), Kobe Bryant (basketball), Dave Ramsey (finance), Warren Buffet (investing), Bill Gates (business) – the list goes on and on. These people have paid the price it takes to succeed in terms of time, talent development, hard work, and determination.
Are Your Songs “Current”?
And what to do about it either way…
One frustrating aspect of writing songs is finding a balance between writing what you want to write and writing what the market is currently accepting. So many songs never make it to market because they are either outdated or too out of the pocket with what’s current.
The more current your songs are, the more likely a risk-averse, mainstream market will bring them onboard. But if your songs aren’t current, you have several options to improve your likelihood of getting cuts and still find personal fulfillment artistically.
10 Things To Consider When Choosing a Demo Studio
Seems like there are demo studios everywhere in Nashville. Since you’re investing a substantial chunk of money into recording and producing your songs, you want to make sure that you do your research before trusting a studio with your songs.
While it is usually a good idea to use multiple demo studios (since each have strengths and weaknesses), here are some things to consider as you make the tough choice on which ones to use. Read More…
6 Tools and Exercises to Enhance Your Lyric Writing
Writing lyrics for country music is particularly challenging due to the constraints you face as a writer. Not only do your lyrics have to fit within syllable parameters, but they also have to rhyme, portray emotion and meaning, avoid clichés and cheesiness, and merge seamlessly with a melody!
To take your lyric writing to a new level, there are several tools in your lyric-writing toolbox that you can use. Each tool will help overcome writer’s block, expand your writing ability, and choose words that mean just as much as the melodies that you write. Read More…
6 Often Overlooked Benefits to Cowriting
If you look at most hit songs these days, you’ll often notice that they were penned by 2, 3, or even more songwriters! Why would songwriters want to share royalties with another songwriter? Why not just write alone and keep all the royalties? This is because the benefits of cowriting outweigh the downside of sharing royalties by a longshot. Read More…
The Five Reasons We All Listen to Songs
Why have nearly all cultures, both past and present, embraced music so strongly? Why is it that songs draw out powerful emotions with their poetic lyrics and their soulful melodies? For some reason, it seems that all (or at least most) of us have a strong need for music in our lives.
If it is the CD buyers, the concert attenders, and the music streamers that fuel the multi-billion dollar music industry, then songwriters should pay close attention to the reasons why people love and need songs in their lives to write music that meets those needs. If songwriters touch on one or more core human emotions, they will not only make a greater difference in the lives of those that hear their songs, but will likely find greater market success as well. Read More…