Like every musician, I’ve made plenty of mistakes throughout my career. So many of us start making music with big dreams and vague plans and quickly realize how hard it actually is to write and record great music and get the world to notice. But while plenty of the mistakes we make in music are inevitable, a lot of the emotional, financial, and creative trouble we get ourselves into is totally preventable. Had I known these four things when I started writing and performing music seriously, I would’ve been a lot happier and more productive:
Many developing artists are shocked to find how different recording is from performing in front of an audience. It can be tricky to approach recording with the same passion and confidence that you would display on stage, but playing like your heart is truly in it is crucial for getting solid recordings. It’s completely possible for artists to write great songs only to see them fall flat because of poor performances in the studio. Whether it’s performing too much inside your own head or not being adequately prepared, there are plenty of things that can cause the energy to slip away from your recordings. Here are four tips to help:
Your songs can benefit from emotional honesty in big ways when it comes to connecting with audiences. But when music is too emotionally obvious or extreme, there’s a risk that anyone other than the person or people who created it will be able to resonate with it. From lyrical narratives to the way your music sounds, emotional nuance is important for creating work that’s listenable and relatable.
When we create music, what are the parts of it that we own, and which ones do we give away to our listeners? It’s a weird question, but it’s worth asking. Getting to the bottom of what your music means to you and what about it you hope to give other people through your art will give you direction, purpose, and clarity as a music-maker. It’s also an exercise that can help you move outside of yourself temporarily and allow you to hear your music the way one of your listeners would. When we make music for and about only ourselves, we risk cutting off the outside world and alienating our listeners.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who constantly talks but never really says anything meaningful or memorable? In our creative pursuits as songwriters, it’s essential to avoid doing this same thing with our music––filling valuable time on our tracks with ideas that we know won’t really say or mean anything to our listeners. Along with curiosity, honesty, and a willingness to fail, intention is one of the best traits we can have as songwriters. It’s an asset that can transform forgettable songs into solid, engaging, and accessible pieces of music for our listeners.
In today’s music climate, technology gives us a constantly-updating snapshot of how our music performs over streaming platforms via play counts. The higher the counts are, the better the music is, or so goes conventional thinking. This is flat wrong for lots of reasons. Yet, with a healthy desire to find an audience for your music, it can be easy to give in to this idea in ways that damage your creativity and career in the process. There’s nothing wrong with wanting lots of listeners to love your music. In fact, wanting to build those connections is an essential part of building a music career. But if your only metrics for musical success are the stats behind your music, then you’re missing the point.
In 2020, working out of a home recording studio doesn’t mean having to compromise on the sound quality of your music. We’re seeing more artists produce phenomenal sounding music from modest home studios than ever before. The good news is that you can do it on a tight budget. Yet, to get the kind of results that succeed in music, there are some basic things you’ll need to do to prepare your songs for release.
Things in music rarely work out the way we think they will. A song that you’re completely convinced will perform well with listeners falls flat while another you didn’t give much thought to succeeds. Something big happens in your life that you think will lead to lots of great songwriting inspiration, but nothing ends up happening. There’s so much we can’t control in music, which is undeniably frustrating, but it’s also one of the biggest reasons why we have to focus on what we have a say over. Waiting for the stars to align to create music is one of the worst habits you can get into in your music career because it forces you to invest your time and creative energy into things you have no control over.