To some songwriters, a song feels like a living and ever-changing entity, even when it’s finished and shared with the world. To others, released songs feel like permanent fixtures that can’t and shouldn’t ever be changed. While these two mindsets couldn’t be more different, a situation every songwriter finds themself in is not knowing whether a song is ready to master and be made available for others to listen to or not. Here are five signs that your song is ready to share:
After listening with fresh ears, you wouldn’t change anything
The more we listen to mixes of our songs, the more we get used to shortcomings and flaws in our music. But if you listen to your song with fresh ears and determine there’s nothing about it you’d change, then it’s a good sign that you’re ready to roll. It should go without saying that critical listening should only happen after your song is recorded, produced, and thoroughly mixed. Multiple listening sessions is always a good idea, and if you’re dying to get an outside perspective on your mix, ask other musicians and friends to check out your mix.
The recordings are solid
Depending on the kind of music you make, your recordings might not need to sound pristine, but they do need to come off as professional and intentional. If you listen back to your mix and discover unwanted noises and muddy tracks, it’s probably time to start over and get things right. It’s easy to think that audiences and music industry professionals will look past subpar recordings and hear great songs, but they probably won’t. If you’ve got a great song on your hands, you should do everything in your power to present it as best as you can. The quality of your recordings are a big deal.
The mix is where it should be
The way your song is mixed absolutely has the power to determine whether it sinks or swims. If you’re mixing your music yourself, you’ll quickly find that the skills you develop in this process are far different than the ones you lean on to write and perform music. It’s safe to assume that if you have any doubts about your mix, something is probably not where it should be and needs attention. It can be a massive pain to record a song you’re excited about only to see it get struck in the mixing process, but if it’s not properly shaped by mixing, it won’t sound its best. If you’re not confident in creating the best mix for your music, there are plenty of audio engineers out there who would love to help you out. But when working with someone else, just know that your vision and what they ultimately create with your work might not always be the same.
The performances sound compelling
It’s natural to love a song one minute but feel completely unsure about it during recording. The reason for this often comes down to a lack of experience in recording music. When performances aren’t where they should be, it’s impossible for audiences to hear the full, clear picture behind a piece of music. When you record music, you always have the option to record a couple takes and use the best one. But the inconvenient reality is that getting your best performance while recording often takes time. Many artists don’t feel completely comfortable playing or singing until their tenth take, and some need even more. Unless your music benefits from candid, unpolished recordings, it’s not ready to share without confident and passionate performances.
It genuinely excites you
Lastly, when you listen to the track in question, does it genuinely excite you? If not, it’s not finished. Some tracks need more or less production and better recordings to be solid enough to share with listeners. But others suffer from a lack of imagination and follow through when it comes to songwriting. When we’re not excited about the music we create, our fans probably won’t be either. If your song isn’t good enough to get you excited, it probably needs more work to be wrapped up and released.
If you have any doubt that your song isn’t strong enough to formally release, then lean into your intuition and take it seriously. This might not be the advice you want to hear if you’ve been working on something for a long time and are eager to wrap it up, but sharing undeveloped and unpolished work won’t do you or your music career any favors.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.