A while back I listed five things that you, as a songwriter can do to move your career forward. I’m pleased to say that each of those suggestions still holds true today. At the same time, there will always be more songwriters can do to get ahead so I’ve put together a list of three more things you can - and should - be doing to keep making progress in this most challenging and, ultimately, satisfying career you’ve chosen.
1. Educate yourself
There will never be a substitute for writing as many songs as you can to become a better songwriter. However, what successful songwriters know is that there is much more to this career than simply writing songs. Fortunately, there are many incredible songwriters/teachers who have come before you who have been gracious enough to put down what they’ve learned in books. All this to say, read as many books about songwriting and the music business as you possibly can. I can promise you that I’ve never seen a songwriter fail to have a successful career because they had too much good information.
2. Have a professional critique your songs
One of my favorite expressions is that “you don’t know what you don’t know.” As I mentioned above, writing lots and lots of songs is critical to improving as a songwriter but if you continue to make the same mistakes with no one to help point you in the right direction, the process will be a much slower one. Think of a professional critique as a way of learning the craft of songwriting from someone who has already had proven commercial success. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything you’re told but you should, at the very least, understand that there are certain commercial conventions out there. Then, if you decide to disagree with them, you can do so in an informed way.
3. Find a mentor
So much of the work you’ll do as a songwriter is done in a vacuum. Having someone who can answer your career questions, act as a sounding board and point you in the right direction is a huge help. At the very least, it can take away some of the fear of the unknown but it’s often much, much more. Meeting someone at a more advanced stage in their career who is willing to help is often the function of your willingness to be brave and put yourself out there. This means getting your introverted self out to songwriting events, writer’s nights, conferences, etc. A word of warning, though, to be patient and considerate as you begin to develop the mentee/mentor relationship. Remember that you’re essentially asking for a huge favor and, as such, remembering to be appreciative is key.
If you’re fortunate enough to have chosen songwriting as a passion and potential career, then getting up every day and wanting to improve should be more of a pleasure than a problem. This doesn’t mean it won’t feel overwhelming or discouraging at times, but it does mean that the more you do on your own behalf, the greater the likelihood of a truly fulfilling and successful career.
Cliff Goldmacher is a GRAMMY-recognized songwriter, music producer and author with recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Through his studios, Cliff provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual, live access to Nashville’s best session musicians and demo singers for their songwriting demos. Find out more. You can also download Cliff’s FREE tip sheet“A Dozen Quick Fixes To Instantly Improve Your Songs.”