Five Myths about Achieving Success as a Songwriter
I’ve come to believe in my 20-plus years in music that by setting reasonable expectations and doing the work, it becomes much harder to be fooled or discouraged by some of the pervasive myths that exist around songwriting success.
By Cliff Goldmacher
With April Fools Day upon us, I thought I’d address some common misconceptions about life as a songwriter that tend to either slow down our progress or discourage us unnecessarily. The more educated you become about the mostly unwritten rules of the music industry, the less often you’ll be fooled and the better prepared you’ll be to make the slow and steady progress that leads to success.
1. Industry people are open to homemade, rough recordings. I get it. A song is made up of a melody and lyric and as long as you can hear those, any reasonable person ought to be able to tell whether a song is good or not, right? Well, not really. The reality is that a&r reps and publishers spend their entire day listening to music and a lot of it is beautifully recorded. Whether it’s fair or not, your homemade recording is being held up to that level of quality. The analogy I tend to use is one where you go on a blind date and, while you may be a terrific person, you don’t bother to shower. My guess is that your personality is not going to be the first thing your date will notice about you. Finally, given that you’ve only got one chance to make a first impression, a professional recording of your song (even if it’s a simple guitar or piano and vocal) will go a long way towards marking you as someone who is serious about his or her craft.
2. You’ll get “discovered” at a music conference. Music conferences provide many valuable functions, including opportunities for learning, connecting with your peers and, yes, networking with music industry professionals. Conferences are a great way to begin your relationships with the decision-makers in attendance. I say “begin” your relationships because conferences are, at best, only a couple of days and, last time I checked, no deep and lasting friendships or working relationships are ever fully realized in two days. If we’re honest with ourselves, our secret dream at a music conference is that someone will hear one of our songs and either immediately put it in a movie or bring it to their artist to record. This mindset not only places too much pressure on your interactions at these conferences but also tends to make it uncomfortable for the industry folks who are there because they end up getting mobbed or interrupted at inappropriate moments. If you look at these conferences as an opportunity to learn and begin to develop relationships with people in the industry, you’ll have a much better time and get a lot more out of them.
3. A publishing deal is the answer to your prayers. Being a songwriter is lonely work, which explains why we tend to crave industry recognition and approval of our material. While it’s always nice to have people in the industry appreciate what you do, it’s even better to know that you’re doing quality work and not to give away your publishing just because someone in the industry tells you they like your songs. A publishing deal is a business arrangement where you’ll be giving up part ownership in your songs (sometimes more than part and sometimes forever), so you should be very sure you know what you’ll be getting in return. There are a lot of functions that publishers perform that we, as songwriters, can take care of ourselves — not the least of which is pitching our own material. While it’s nice to have a publisher with industry relationships shopping your material, sometimes it’s better to develop those relationships yourself over time and keep ownership of your songs. Publishers provide a very valuable function in the music industry but don’t assume that having a publisher is the only way to succeed.
4. Anything of lasting value happens quickly. Being a songwriter is a game of patience and perseverance. For that first cut or movie placement, you’ll have most likely spent hundreds if not thousands of hours working on your craft. We all want success to come quickly but often, success as a songwriter is the result of reaching a critical mass of songs, pitches and networking. The key to success is sticking around, doing your work and not getting discouraged by the disappointments you’ll undoubtedly encounter along the way. Since financial success comes slowly, it’s even more important that you enjoy your day-to-day work as a songwriter, since that’s what will sustain you on your road to eventual success.
5. It’s impossible to have success as a songwriter. While the road to success as a songwriter is an unpredictable one, it’s by no means a dead end. There are things that you can — and should — be doing every day to improve your odds and to give yourself more than a fighting chance of earning income from your songs. However, the fundamentals of this approach are similar across any business and not just music. By being methodical, focused and willing to do the unromantic work that any business requires as well as the fun, exciting musical work, you’ll be amazed at just how attainable success can be.
I’ve come to believe in my 20-plus years in music that by setting reasonable expectations and doing the work, it becomes much harder to be fooled or discouraged by some of the pervasive myths that exist around songwriting success. As long as you’re not planning on only being a songwriter this week, take a deep breath, keep your eyes open and know that by taking a more realistic and constructive view of your career as a songwriter, you’ll be headed in the right direction.
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including his 14-part video podcast series. Cliff’s company, http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.
You can download a FREE sample of Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” by going to http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/ebook.
Posted Mar 27, 2012
How do u find a publisher for song-lyrics with bmi?
Phillip, most publishers affiliate with both BMI and ASCAP and probably other Performance Rights Organizations too. They usually have affiliates for ‘Sub-Publishing’ in other countries as well.
Most aren’t interested in lyrics only. If you have amazing lyrics that can stand on their own, and can communicate that to a publisher well enough to get permission to submit your works, you might get that permission.
Anything’s worth a try, so don’t be discouraged. Just be aware, and realistic.
Until a lyric ‘marries’ to a melody, it isn’t a song,a nd most people can’t tell what its like.
Okay yea I’m looking for a few collorborations over these sites and entering a few lyric contest but nothing seems to be happening should I personally email a publisher for lyrics only cause I have so much material as well as any other musician but mine is particularly lyrics! Just trying to get my foot in the door.
It’s just difficult for just lyrics
Well now Mr. G, very well said…however, Trust no matter what business your in is where the heart is. Every one has trust, and some, well they spend all of theirs. And there’s the one’s that don’t they know how to add to the Trust. They truly and sincerely earn Trust.
Now That’s very well said i trust complete trust in selling my lyrics to the masses on day
I think I hear a pariot!
Hi PJB, How ya doin? What I see here is, a question with out a question and that is a very diverse thought process.
Oh i was just curious about the parrot parody ha
So for me to elaborate about the talking bird. I don’t know! The parrot had so many personalities ... I’m confused. (My humor.)
That produces questions.
Do you have beliefs and faith? Do you think parrots have beliefs and faith? If so, about Who and is it because Who said or says so.
You see PJB, I have bragging rights when it comes to lyrics. Bottom line Garbage In - Garbage Out.
Understanding the message.
I also have bragging rights on lyrics as well and yes i do understand the message lol….
Congratulations on your bragging rights! And great, the communication got translated to an understanding. I was worried there for a while because you know even though we concentrate on sending messages it is oh so very easy for the messages to be interpreted differently.Especially when the receiver knows “It’s not about me.” Did I just say that or was that something the talking bird said? Oh well go figure…