Songwriters don’t have it easy. We’re writing songs during the most competitive time in music industry history. If you’re a professional songwriter, income sources that used to be reliable, like licensing, have become much less so in recent years. And with today’s playlist-centric listening culture, it’s a feast or famine situation for many professional songwriters. But even if you’re not writing songs for your main source of income, there are plenty of challenges you will likely face as a songwriter. If you love making music and want to do it seriously for the rest of your life, it’s helpful to know why so many songwriters call it quits.
Clammy hands. Racing heart. Nerves completely haywire. All of these are commonplace among a packed room of networkers. Believe it or not, if you’re one of the many who break out in a sweat at the idea of walking into a room full of strangers and making yourself known, you’re not alone. In fact, I’d say you’re in the majority.
But if this introvert (that’s me!) can not only conquer but dare I say, get pretty good at networking, then so can you. Because believe me, I used to be the person who got so close to the wall that I practically was blending in (that was the idea) and now I walk up to strangers, strike up a conversation, and don’t think twice. The butterflies, the nervous nellies, all of that, poof! Gone.
What exactly is a mistake in music? Some mess-ups are big and undeniably embarrassing, like putting the capo on the wrong fret of the guitar during a live show. Others are more subtle, like a singer mumbling through a line of lyrics during a vocal recording take, or an overeager drummer consistently falling ahead of the beat during an exciting section of a song. While every mistake is different and some don’t bring any value to us as musicians, there are some mistakes in music that end up adding a lot of character and value to our music.
You can already picture it. Stepping onto the stage and looking out into the audience, you dream of seeing hundreds—no—thousands of faces staring back at you, screaming with excitement as you take the stage, singing every word back to you. An audience that feels the same way about your music as you feel about your favorite band’s music.
It’s easy to overthink the songwriting process whether you’re a seasoned pro or are writing your first batch of songs. But regardless of where you’re at in your music-making journey, you and your music will end up suffering if you nitpick your songs to death. Spontaneity and curiosity are two crucial character traits you’ll need to make interesting music, but prioritizing perfection and your own intellect leaves you more likely to make boring music and less likely to finish your songs. Here are five red flags that you’re overthinking your music:
For young, ambitious artists, there’s nothing more romantic and hopeful than the idea of jumping in a van and touring around the country for months at a time. Tours are crucial for grabbing attention, building audiences, carving out performance experience, and building industry connections. And when labels and managers look for new artists to sign, artists who regularly tour are almost always the first to get noticed. But while touring gives artists a lot, it comes with serious risks, drawbacks, and costs to consider as well. A “let’s tour until we make it” mentality could end up breaking up your band instead of bringing you closer to your goals.
“Bad” and “good” are vague and frustrating terms when it comes to measuring up music. What’s good in the mind of one listener might be awful to another. A better way to think about it is determining whether a piece of music is successful or not, and as songwriters this is a topic that’s near and dear to our hearts. We don’t have to personally like a song to recognize that it has standout qualities that we’re looking to emulate in our own music. Similarly, there are universal qualities we can listen for and avoid in unsuccessful music. Here are five signs that a song isn’t going to make a connection with listeners: