Updated: Dec 14, 2019
Songpreneur member question: I’m trying to start a songwriters’ circle and I’m finding it hard to get through all the arrogance in my area. Everyone’s the best you know… any idea how to control egos? #AskAmanda
I’ve written before about how it takes some gall to be a songwriter in the first place.
Songwriters have to believe in themselves and their work enough to get over the natural tendency to wonder, “Does anyone care what I have to say?”
So sometimes, in overcoming the creative artistic tendency to be insecure, some folks go the opposite way and become overly confident.
Both conditions - insecurity and arrogance are caused by lack of objectivity in regards to one’s ability to write songs.
On the one hand, writers are too timid and afraid to work on their craft because, like Eeyore on Winnie the Pooh they sit around moping that, “Nobody wants to hear my song. Probably not very good anyway…”
And on the other hand, the arrogant writers prematurely think all their songs are ready to be cut by major label artists, “if only I could get them through those jerks/idiots running the music business.”
Anyone who has been around songwriters very much knows that most of us are an emotional/mental basket case, and are at the very least “odd” by societal standards. That’s part of what makes us able and willing to write songs in the first place. We’re sensitive, creative, and a little left or right of center.
However, that doesn’t mean we have to be foolish or arrogant about our compositions at the expense of getting better at the craft of songwriting.
Tips for Taming Egos:
Instead of becoming annoyed with our insecure or arrogant songwriting brothers and sisters, a good technique is to try and reason with them.
Both insecure and arrogant folks are trying to protect themselves from the pain of falling short of their goals and expectations. Insecure people hold it in, and arrogant people let it out – both with the same results – stagnating their songwriting ambitions.
So what can be done?
Offer up some objective self-evaluation criteria that can be used as a measuring stick for what is “a good song.”
There’s no point in arguing about “that crap on the radio,” because your typical arrogant songwriter feels that he or she is “way above that garbage” and “doesn’t want to write that crap anyway.”
So instead, let each writer in your group come to the circle with a well known song (one that he or she didn’t write) that he or she feels is the best example of the kind of writing he or she wants to do.
Then, as a group, go through each person’s song (it may take several sessions), using the 7 Steps method of song analysis and figure out what techniques are being used that make the song enjoyable.
Then, have everyone in the group make a list of the techniques they like about the songs, and pick three or four techniques to practice using in his/her own writing for the next writing assignment.
That way, instead of confronting the arrogance head on, which usually only serves to make it worse because the person pulls back even further in order to protect him/herself from the fear of rejection, the group can work with the ego-burdened person on the merit of the songs, and not on the feelings and ideas associated with those songs.
Keeping the focus on the work tends to eliminate the selfish tendencies, and helps to tame egos when they pop up.
Another tip is to bring in an expert that everyone respects to give feedback and guidance. It’s hard when you’re a student-leader (as we all should be) and your group doesn’t respect your input enough to take your advice.
All songwriters are guilty of this in some ways, and that’s partly because songwriting is such a subjective art that everybody’s got an opinion. And we’ve all learned over the years that all opinions are not created equally. So bring in an expert early on to your songwriting circle, someone with some success to back up their teachings, and let the expert help set some guidelines for your group that everyone can agree on.
Then later if there’s a dispute, pull out the list of guidelines the expert gave you, and let that be an objective way of solving problems.
It’s normal to encounter “ego” problems when you’re putting together songwriter circles. Ego is usually caused by insecurity or arrogance, both forms of self-protection from rejection.
Instead of fighting with the ego driven person or becoming annoyed, find objective criteria everyone can agree on to judge each others’ songs, and bring in an expert if possible to help set up guidelines early in your groups’ formation.
Got a suggestion for taming egos in your songwriting circle? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Dealing with insecurity? Don’t feel bad! Even greats like Tom Petty feel insecure sometimes.
In an interview with NPR, Tom said, “You just want to be as wonderful as everyone thinks you are, and you know you're not.”
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