Look, I get it. I’m a songwriter and I know exactly how passionate we are about our music and our careers. That said, there is a lot of value in taking a deep breath from time to time and remembering that a little patience and humility go a long way when it comes to navigating a long and hopefully successful career as a songwriter. To that end, I’ve put together a few things to keep in mind - and ideally avoid - when it comes to making your way in the music business.
Don’t market your music until it’s ready
Patience, when it comes to anything we’re passionate about, can be in exceedingly short supply. And I have to admit, it can be really tempting to want to get your songs out in the world before you’ve had a chance to live with them for a while. However, I’d advise against rushing this part of the process. Make sure you’ve taken the time to edit and revise your songs. Also, consider a professional song critique or, at the very least, show your work to your peers and get a little feedback before you start to market your songs to the industry at large. It’s been said before, but you only have one chance to make a first impression.
Don’t be overly confident
Don’t get me wrong. As songwriters, we need to believe in our work. It’s what gets us out of bed every day to keep doing it. But overconfidence has a pretty significant downside in that it tends to come across as arrogance. If you’re fortunate enough to have a music publisher show interest in your work or have an artist put one of your songs on hold, try to keep this in perspective. Enjoy that you’ve taken another step forward in your career but remember there are lots of steps yet to go when it comes to making a living with your songs.
Don’t be difficult to work with
I’m a big believer in sticking to your guns when something is important but there’s a big difference in advocating for yourself and being demanding and difficult to work with. Remembering that we’re all just people and everyone is deserving of being treated with respect is a good place to start. One of my favorite expressions is “the best ones have nothing to prove.” Be the person with great songs who is a pleasure to do business with and you’ll go far.
Don’t dismiss others’ ideas
When a suggestion is made by someone in the industry either about the specifics of one of your songs or something you should consider regarding your career, take a moment and really listen. I’m not suggesting that you always have to compromise or agree with everything you’re told but I am saying that dismissing an idea or criticism (assuming it’s constructive) without giving it real thought is a mistake. Often our visceral reaction is to disagree with a critique, but it might make better sense to think about why you’re having that reaction. Sometimes it’s justified but, often, it’s just something we don’t want to hear even though it might be good for us. All that to say, take a moment and really consider an idea when it comes from someone in the industry.
Waking up every day and doing the necessary work to improve your songwriting and get your songs out in the world is a noble pursuit. There is nothing quite as satisfying as when your music connects with others. That’s why most of us do this. So, if that’s the goal, it’s worth your while to make sure you’re not sabotaging those efforts with impatient or arrogant behavior. And if you’d like to see a few more things to avoid, take a peek at my previous article as well, Five Career-Endangering Mistakes.
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, music producer and educator 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. Download Cliff’s FREE tip sheet “A Dozen Quick Fixes To Instantly Improve Your Songs”.