What It’s Really Like Being a Songwriter in the Music IndustryBy David Taylor II • Category: Songwriting Articles
This article was contributed by David Taylor II. You can visit his site at: DavidTaylor2.com
As bona fide artists, in as much as crafting a good song is just as much of an art as performing said song, we as writers unfortunately do tend to fall prey to thinking a few highly erroneous things.
Highly erroneous thing number 1:
“Everyone will love my music because I do.”
Whatever pieces you create, whatever your genre or style, if you pour yourself into that process at any level, what comes out ceases to be a piece of music and is instead transformed into a child. Your child. And like any parent, you think it’s the most beautiful thing that ever graced the Earth, and you’re irrationally defensive about it, because who, exactly, wouldn’t love your darling baby?
Just like in parenting, however, there are literally millions of babies out there, and in our world, they’re all trying to find a home after you’ve given birth to them. Whomever you want to choose your song, whether it’s a fan, a publisher, a record label, or an artist, they have a multitude of choices coming at them all the time, all vying for their attention…yet somehow we think our child is special. That it’s going to stand out. And we can’t understand how someone could look at our baby and say….meh. But often, they will.
Equally Erroneous thing number 2:
“All it takes to succeed is talent.”
*sigh* We all wish that that were true. It takes more than being talented at what you do and working hard; it takes relationships. People inside the industry have to get to know you, and your work, but most of all, they have to see that you’re dependable. They have to know that you’re not just another fly-by-nighter that’s going to be in the music business for six months and then get out.
When someone gives you a chance or opens a door for you, they are often putting their resources and their reputations on the line to do so….things that it takes a great deal of time to build. What then if you create something wonderful, and then three weeks later you’re not answering your cell or emails? Or you’ve moved? What are they to do then?
So by all means, develop your craft and a solid, relentless work ethic…but showing up, day after day, week after week, month after month is what’s going to make people take you seriously as a professional inside the industry.
Unequivocally Erroneous thing number 3:
“If it’s a great song, it will automatically get on the radio/TV/CD.”
How much sleep have we lost over this one? Heavy under the burden of writing something that is objectively good, we start to breathe a small sigh of relief based on the feedback that we get, so we know it’s not our parental pride speaking. We beam knowing that we worked really hard to construct every melodic turn, every lyric, every chord progression…only to discover, that means exactly zero when it comes to the song getting cut, or getting airplay. And why? Because of thing number two. People in the industry that are making things happen rarely have the luxury of listening to and sifting through every potential song that comes their way, regardless of the vary degrees of quality they’re presented with. What always gets to the front of the line? Warm referrals. Material that comes from people that they know and trust. Material that comes from pipelines that have been built up over decades.
Also, as many of us know, a song, like a movie scene, can be left on the cutting room floor. It can get recorded but not included on the CD(Quincy Jones & Michael Jackson auditioned HUNDREDS of songs for Thriller), or placed in the movie and then jettisoned because of reshoots or a change of narrative direction. There’s just no way to guarantee that a song, even a song of impeccable quality, is going to be included in the final press.
The muse that drives us and binds us won’t let us have peace doing anything else; she’s constantly whispering to our subconscious, and then our own soul-ish mechanisms start working, and we’re pregnant. Again. If you pen songs, most will agree that it is a compulsion just as much as a profession, but we clearly have to come to grips with some harsh truths if we’re going to survive in the game long enough to see our children get the recognition that we so hungrily crave for them to get.