Picture your songwriting career as a car. Just for fun, let’s say it’s a Ferrari. It might not feel like one right now but that’s because it’s not going anywhere very fast.
It could be that your car is driving in circles, starting and stopping, or stuck in neutral. Maybe the driver is asleep at the wheel or doesn’t know how to get where they’re going. Wouldn’t it be better if the driver woke up, checked the GPS, took hold of the wheel, and harnessed the power of that amazing engine to get to a real destination?
You are the car’s driver. The engine that powers this car is your Energy, Inspiration, Desire, and Excitement. There’s plenty of potential there but unless the you have a real idea where you’re going and how to get there, the car can’t take you there on its own.
A successful journey starts with a clear destination in mind. Do you want to…
- Have a career as a recording artist?
- Write songs for other people to sing?
- Write songs for film and TV?
- Be a songwriter-producer?
- Make money with your songs or write for friends, family, or your community?
Maybe you want to do all of these. Destinations can change, of course, but it’s a good idea to start your trip with one clearly in mind. => Write down a destination you want to reach. If you can’t decide on just one, pick the one you want to go to first, then list the others.
The road starts at your own front door. If you wait for someone to come along and pave a road just for you, it’ll never happen. You have to make your own road. At the end of this post, I’ve included four ideas to get you started.
Keep heading in the right direction
Goals divide a longer journey into do-able bits and keep you on track. You wouldn’t try to drive from Los Angeles to New York without stopping. You’ve got cities and hotels you plan to hit along the way. It’s the same with any big goal. Sure, you might end up changing your plans as you go along. Stay open and adaptable, but give yourself a map to follow.
GOALS: Make a list of your strengths, weaknesses, and resources. Work on those areas you need to strengthen. Could you be a better musician? (We all could.) Could you add more songs to your catalog? (Sure.) Could you learn more about your craft and the music business? (You bet!)
Divide the journey into short hops and stop often to reassess along the way. A goal you can accomplish in a week can make you feel like you’re making progress. Keep your goals realistic – make them ones you can reach in a day, a week, a month. Goals are the mile posts your trip. Stop often. Enjoy the scenery. Then get back in your car and head for your next goal.
Get to know your destination
You might be dreaming about success but there are no roads that will take you to a fantasy place. You need to have a real destination. And that means studying successful songs and artists who have already made it down the road. These will show you where you’re headed. I’ve studied a few hit songs and Film & TV songs for you. Take a look at a couple of these, then try studying hit songs you like on your own.
Here’s more info on why and how to study hit songs. Immerse yourself in successful songs and genres.
The music business needs songs that will appeal to listeners and work for radio or TV. Your trip will be much easier and faster if you’re prepared to give the industry what it needs. You can do it and STILL be true to yourself. You don’t have to “sell out.” Write songs that express what you feel and what you want to say, but do it with a current genre and music use in mind, then pitch it to music publishers, music supervisors, and record labels. Find out more about what they’re looking for here: What to do AFTER you write your songs.
Don’t wait for someone else to do it
Your songwriting career has already started. It’s up to you where it will go and how fast. Here are some ideas to get your Ferrari of a career in gear!
IDEA 1. Collaborate: This is one of the best ways to add speed and direction to your career. Here are tips on how to co-write and where to find collaborators.
IDEA 2. Network: Facebook, Google+, and Twitter are all free. Connect with friends first. If they like a song, ask them to tell their friends about it. Word of mouth is your best promotion. If you have a fan base already, be sure to keep them up to date on what you’re doing. Talk about new artists you like, who you’re listening to, what you’re writing and recording.
Network with other artists who work in a style that’s similar to yours. They’re not your competition; they’re your allies. Check out the Folk Alliance, NSAI, and the forums at TAXI.com, or any other web site where songwriters and artists in your genre like to hang out. Suggest writing and singing duets. Offer to play or sing harmony on their recordings. Share tips and techniques that work. You can even link to each other’s new releases on your Facebook or Google+ page. If you’re in school, check out or start a songwriting club.
IDEA 3. Use YouTube. It’s free and it’s easy. Post lyric videos of your songs. Just create a simple background image and write out your lyric as the song plays. YouTube makes it easy to create all of this online right in your YouTube account. Promote your video on Facebook and Google+. If someone leaves a comment on YouTube, be sure to reply; Iit will help your video rise in YouTube’s search results.
IDEA 4. Think outside your CD: Don’t wait until you have ten songs then spend a whole lot of money to record them. Record an EP or single with simple, barebones production. A single song can be released digitally on CDbaby.com for under $20. Just be sure the recording is clean and the vocal performance puts across the energy and emotion of the song. Singles like this can give your current fans something to talk about and share and create new fans.
So now you’re ready to hit the road! Keep driving that car and know where you want to go and you WILL get there!
by Robin Frederick
This post is based on my songwriting books: Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting, Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV, Study the Hits, and The 30-Minute Songwriter. Find out more about all of my print and eBooks on my Author page at Amazon. In each book you’ll find dozens of useful, real-world shortcuts that will show you how to craft songs that work for today’s music market, plus dozens of hands-on exercises to get your creative ideas flowing.