Because success means something different to each one of us as songwriters, we should also take time to think about what failure looks like to us. You might feel like you’ve failed in some way if the single you just released isn’t getting any attention or your band just split up, but there are almost always broader things going on behind the scenes that cause problems in music. Here are five common ways that failure happens in music:
Songwriting is a creative pursuit where it’s easy to get tricked into thinking that more is better––more production, more vocals, more complexity, etc. And, on the other end of the spectrum, it’s also tempting to leave ideas undeveloped and lacking direction by trying to keep things simple and straightforward. Before DAWs became an integral songwriting tool, deciding how much or how little to add to a song wasn’t nearly as challenging. Much of the time those choices were made for songwriters depending on the size of an artist’s band and their budget. But now that anyone making music has a virtually endless array of digital instrumental and production possibilities at their fingertips at any given moment, the minimalist vs. extreme dilemma is something many of us have to grapple with as modern music-makers.
This feels weird to say, but if you live a life that’s completely revolved around making music, the songs you write might not end up being very good. We’re taught that to be truly good at something, the complete devotion of our time, thoughts, money, and energy is the only way to succeed. In many cases, this is accurate whether your sights are set on being a doctor or professional athlete, or politician. But things are infinitely more complicated when it comes to creating music.
Late last year, Spotify expanded access to Spotify Canvas—a feature that lets artists visually brand their tracks with short looping videos. This was great news for every artist who’s keen to increase streaming time and draw listeners in deeper, but you may have noticed that there hasn’t been a whole lot of advice available on HOW to make them.
So let’s fix that! Here are the three main methods available to every artist:
This is a question that every songwriter has asked themselves at some point. We tool around on our instruments, come up with some sort of chord progression, riff, or lyric, and ask whether what we’ve created is promising or not. Or, we write entire songs that we start to question after being excited during the writing process. How can we know whether or not what we write is good before we share it? And how can we tell the difference between a bad or mediocre idea and a profound one?
If you’re an unestablished artist reading this with the goal of being able to do nothing but perform and create music for the rest of your life, you’re not alone. It’s a completely understandable goal, and something countless musicians strive for. For many of us, a perfect situation would be to spend our days focusing on music and doing nothing else.
Few non-musical people listen to music and realize just how much money, time, and work goes into creating a single song. From music lessons to recording equipment to the creative and emotional labor it takes to write, record, and produce a song, music takes an immense amount of work to make. For developing music-makers who have yet to find their audiences, asking what, if anything, listeners owe you is a fair question considering the sacrifice involved in creating music. However, the answer might disappoint you.
There are countless songs about loss and heartbreak, but something music fans probably don’t think much about is just how frustrating, disappointing, and painful the process of making music can be. The truth is that virtually no musician is immune from the inevitable hardships that are involved with seriously pursuing music. Alongside other character traits like bravery, curiosity, empathy, and awareness, tenacity is a priceless asset for serious musicians.