Good Songs Are Not Enough
Good Songs are not enough.
I received a tremendous response to my last article entitled “Your Biggest Mistake Ever” (thank you). It seems everyone is starting to catch on to the importance of marketing. Songwriters (hopefully) have great songs but struggle with getting attention and getting them monetized and I want to thank those of you who asked me to write about some strategies on how to advance a songwriting career using marketing techniques.
How does one influence the buying decision of someone looking for songs to cut?
The answer is presentation and relationships.
I have some ideas.
Right off the bat, if you aspire to be a songwriter and not an artist then your business model is B2B not B2C. Meaning you want to sell your songs to people who will make recordings that generate revenue as opposed to creating the actual recording that will generate revenue.
B2B = Business to Business.
B2C = Business to Consumer.
Trust me when I tell you that your game plan has to be ALL about relationships. The more relationships you have, the more opportunities you create for yourself.
Relationships in the entertainment industry are everything and songwriting is no different.
You need relationships with other songwriters and up and coming artists. These relationships will naturally lead to connections with producers, A&R execs, publishers, song pluggers etc.
Did you ever notice that when Adam Sandler makes a movie it’s always got the same cast? Those people are his friends.
Did you ever notice that whenever Christopher Guest makes a movie (“This is Spinal Tap”, “Waiting for Guffman”, “Best in Show”) the cast is almost exactly the same? Those people are his friends.
Could Sandler and Guest find superior talent with other actors and comedians in their industry? Sure, they’re big stars, their movies make money, and they can get anyone they want.
I happen to love their casting choices, but there is always someone more talented or someone with bigger and better marquis value, right?
Why stick with the same old, same old when you can get this year’s “Johnny Hot Sausage”?
They make business decisions to write and cast their movies based on relationships first.
Is it surprising that Ashley Monroe is singing a duet with Blake Shelton when you find out she is friends with Miranda Lambert?
Is it surprising that Ashley Monroe co-wrote a couple Miranda Lambert songs like “Me and Your Cigarettes” and “Heart Like Mine”?
Did you know that Cole Swindell was frat buddies with Luke Bryan?
Is it surprising that Cole Swindell co-wrote a ton of Luke Bryan hits?
Are you picking up what I’m putting down?
Good, so we’ve established that while you certainly need great songs, success as a songwriter requires relationships.
Great songs are simply not enough.
Ok, so HOW do you create relationships?
My first (and very obvious) thought is a Sam Kinison’s advice to end world hunger, tell the hungry to “GO WHERE THE FOOD IS!”
Move to where there are a ton of songwriters. The more songwriters and artists, the more opportunities, right? It’s a numbers game so stop having your dream build up and get crushed on 1 opportunity.
You will require many.
If you can’t move to an artist-centric city like Nashville, New York, or Los Angeles then you can certainly visit from time to time and make it worth your while; have a strategy for targeting and creating relationships.
I know, I know, that’s not possible for all of you to physically move. Let’s explore some other ideas.
Let’s tackle the big question, what if another songwriter, publisher, producer, or artist says “YES”?
Do you have a solid professional representation of your songs that demonstrates your talent or will you be presenting your product with excuses and disclaimers about the quality of songwriting and/or recording?
Think about the concept of disclaimers in a different light. Let’s say you go to purchase a car and you ask the person selling the car if it works. They tell you the car looks great but it needs a new engine, tires, A/C, and transmission because they never took care of it and they had a bunch of REALLY GOOD reasons why they couldn’t afford the time and/or money to do it.
Would you buy the car?
Would you care about the reasons why it didn’t work or would you simply focus on the fact that the damn car doesn’t run?
Nope. This is business, man, that car needs to get you reliably from point A to point B.
You don’t have time for nonsense when it comes to your car, do you?
Disclaimers about your product, i.e. the song or the recording, are UNPROFESSIONAL.
Professionals don’t have time for nonsense from non-professionals.
Make sure you have at least a couple competitive recordings of your very best songs so you can start a possible relationship off proudly, without a disclaimer.
Get down to business with your presentation. Consumers want to be wooed and transported to your artistic world, business people need to hear what you wrote immediately so they can make decisions.
Remember, you’re selling the lyric, melody, and vibe of the song NOT the recording. In short, have a demo edit just for B2B presentations, no fat, just meat; similar to a movie director’s artistic cut vs. the distributed version of the film.
Once you have the tools you need to begin a professional relationship, I would focus on how to create a symbiotic relationship.
Symbiotic means both parties add value to the relationship.
One sided relationships never last, ever, think about it.
One sided professional relationships are impossible to start when it’s obvious that they are one sided. (The ONLY time one sided relationships have a chance is when they are a valued relationship for other reasons, but I digress)
In plain English, the big hit songwriters are not going to be beneficial to you immediately so I wouldn’t waste time and energy treating them like a “make or break” priority in your career.
This strategy will only render negative results which creates frustration and will leave you second-guessing yourself.
Find relationships within your “class” or “generation”. In this metaphor “class” and “generation” have nothing to do with age and everything to do with a measurable spot on an artistic journey.
Find your beehive.
Don’t ignore or lament your place on the artistic journey, honor it.
It’ll make you better.
It’ll make you honest.
It’ll make you work.
It’ll make for better songs.
If you’re really writing hit songs, believe me, you will attract attention from the appropriate people.
If you are somewhere on your way to writing hit songs, believe me, you will attract the appropriate people.
Focus on finding songwriters who are willing to play in the sandbox with you, first; expand from there. This strategy will render immediate results that will add fuel to your fire rather than snuff it out.
Start targeting songwriters for co-writes.
If you’re in a big city, find out where the songwriters hang out and go there.
Participate in writer’s nights, open mic nights, go to artist shows, etc.
I would also be looking to target songwriters online. There are HUNDREDS of songwriter communities on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.
The best way to create any relationship is to do something for them rather than asking them to do something for you.
What could you do for a songwriter you would like to work with? What are you good at? There is literally no better relationship builder than one person doing something for another person expecting nothing in return.
Expect nothing in return.
Time is something we all have and it’s the best gift anyone could give. How could you offer up your time to benefit someone you would like to create a relationship with?
Daredevil Production creates regular, long lasting relationships with all the interns we work with. They offer their valuable time in exchange for knowledge and a course credit.
This means the world to me. I NEED it.
What do other songwriters need?
Everyone needs gas money, grocery money, musical equipment, gift cards, etc.
What if you went online to a songwriting community and offered up a simple contest? For instance, if you are a lyricist you would post up your best lyric and offer a $25 gift card to songwriter who can write the best melody to it.
That’s a nice little artistic challenge with a possible immediate payoff.
You just created a relationship with a writer who possesses a clear talent to complete your artistic circle and it only cost you $25.
Maybe a songwriter needs a service or skill outside of the music business that you can offer up.
Maybe they need web design, logo design, construction work, legal help, accounting advice, automotive maintenance, recording time in your home studio, etc.
What do you have that is of value?
Quit focusing on one song. This will limit your responses and become disappointing. Maybe your one song is a smash hit song but it isn’t trending right now.
For instance, in the 90’s ballads were huge, ballads were trending. Now they are not in style. So if you’re emotionally pinning your hopes and dreams to a ballad in today’s market you’re going to get a ton of rejection.
Nobody is buying ballads today, regardless of the quality, like nobody is buying hamburgers for their vegan restaurants.
Quit focusing on getting ROI on 1 song or a limited amount of songs. If you require instant return on your investment to believe the journey is worth it, professional songwriting and the entertainment industry is not your bag, baby.
The more you write, the better you get, the more relationships you create and/or deepen.
The more you write the more product you have to monetize when you do get a big break with your first cut and/or single.
The more you write the bigger your body of work becomes which makes you look more professional.
Think about it this way, if you were buying a house would you trust the carpenter who’s built 100 houses or the new guy who has big dreams and no reputation?
One final way I can think of (at the moment) is to do some business.
- Organizations like NSAI are a great place to run into other songwriters.
- PAY for mentorships with hit songwriters. You will learn, you will improve, and you will develop relationships, you write better songs.
- Songwriter Conferences like
- SongwritingandMusicBusiness.com are FANTASTIC events to meet other writers, industry pros, network, and get great feedback/advice on how to navigate the songwriting business.
- Tin Pan Alley
- Here’s a Music Connection guide to songwriter conferences.
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