Updated: Dec 15, 2019
We all do it. Making mistakes is partly how we learn.
But isn't it nice to be able to learn from the experience of others, and avoid some of the most common mistakes new songwriters make?
Here are 5 common mistakes people make trying to break into the songwriting business.
#1 Demo Too Much
New and seasoned songwriters alike make this common mistake.
When you write a new song, and you know it’s good, it’s hard to resist the urge to invest in a professional demonstration recording so you can pitch the song.
The problem is two fold: 1) Having a great demo isn’t going to help you get your foot in the door unless you already have the network and clout to get your songs heard, and 2) See # 2.
The remedy to these problems is: 1) Think like a business about any expenses you incur in your songwriting – ask yourself, “Are you getting the results you expect from your purchases?” If not, then your plan needs work. 2) See # 2.
#2 Think they’re better than they are
Songwriters are notoriously either arrogant, or insecure – usually both. Therefore, it’s common to either highly overestimate or underestimate your work.
While it’s true songwriting is an art form, and therefore whether a person likes a song is dependent on his or her taste, there are some tried and true measures of excellence to go by when it comes to commercial music.
If you’re going for the artist thing, you can be a little more creative with your songs, but when you’re writing songs for other artists in a commercial market, there are ways to measure how closely you’re hitting the hit song target.
Just because your spouse, mom, grandma, and vendors like your songs doesn’t mean that you’re actually writing up to the commercial bar. If you’re not sure, get a professional opinion so you can have a better idea where you stand, and what you need to work on to get where you want to be.
#3 Don’t Understand the Business
This should go without saying, but unlike any other business in the world, songwriters and musical artists think they shouldn’t have to learn anything about the business side of their… well… business.
Focusing on the business isn’t selling out to the man. It actually frees you to produce whatever artistic creations you want, as long as you can find a niche market to financially support your efforts.
And why the emphasis on finances? Because, if you’re not making any money from your songwriting and artistry, that means you’re either not very good yet, or you’re still a hobbyist.
If you want to be a professional, you’ll have to put your big boy or girl pants on and think about learning the copyright bundle, not just doing the fun part all the time.
This doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. It just means that you have a clue about what it takes to make your living doing music.
#4 Don’t Know the History
One of the beautiful things about the songwriting trade is getting to meet the fantastic characters. Songwriters and music industry veterans have stories galore, and are proud to share them with others given the right circumstances and prompting.
Often newcomers complain about the “good ole boys’ club” in Nashville and other music centers, and think they don’t have a fair chance of breaking in. But the reality is that these “clubs” exist for a reason: they represent tried and true relationships that have been forged in the fires of experience for decades.
If you want a shot of breaking in to the business, it’s a good idea to know a little bit about the history of your genre so that you can have intelligent conversation when you meet people.
For more about this see # 5.
#5 Talks Too Much About “Me”
As we noted, songwriters are typically arrogant and or insecure. This leads to much bragging or humble foot shuffling about ones’ self.
Instead of falling into the trap of telling your entire life story and accomplishments in the first breath after meeting someone, why not try the more culturally appropriate approach, and simply ask questions.
You’re not asking questions to probe or pick brains, but you’re simply interested in something – sincerely curious about something that interests not only you, but also the person you’re talking to.
You’ll be surprised how many meaningful relationships start in just this way.
If you’re serious about your songwriting and music business career, take note and avoid these Top Five Mistakes commonly made in the industry:
Demo too much
Think they're better than they are
Don't understand the business
Don't know the history
Talks too much about "me"
Want more help avoiding pitfalls? Order Getting Started the Right Way In the New Millennium of Music Business.