Take These Steps to Become a Successful Songwriter
So you want to be a songwriter? If you have a passion for music, taking the leap and working towards becoming a songwriter can be one of the most fulfilling music careers in the modern-day music business. Songwriters work in every genre of music, from country to theater. Although having music talent is important, it takes a lot more than skill to become a songwriter in the industry.
As a songwriter, you will create original music and lyrics. These works will be performed by singers, musical groups and bands. Most songwriters will create music within a preferred genre, but you’re not limited to that.
Some may create for advertisers specifically or write music for TV shows and Film placements. Go with what feels natural. Although competition for songwriting jobs or publishing deals is strong and finding a full-time position right away may be difficult, the results and career itself are extremely rewarding.
Becoming a Songwriter
Before learning how to become a songwriter, you’ll need to learn how to write. On top of this, you will also need to become familiar with terms that are applicable to professional songwriters. Enrolling in a music program will help iron out the understanding of this business.
It’s also important to learn how to protect your written work or “original song”. This is extremely important when submitting samples (samples of your song, not samples to use in productions) to record labels or musical artists. You can copyright your musical work through the US Copyright Office. This will ensure others cannot take your ideas and use them for themselves while profiting.
What Skills Do I Need to Become a Songwriter?
There are really no technical requirements to become a songwriter. Many of the greats simply started to write lyrics. However, in today’s industry, it is rare to find a successful writer who doesn’t play an instrument.
Most play the piano or play guitar. These instruments allow for the building blocks of music, chord progressions. I would advise you to learn one of these two instruments to start.
In most cases, the songwriter is also a singer, but this is less common than being proficient with an instrument. Being able to sing the songs as you write them will give you an idea of the potential phrasing a professional singer may use. It’s not uncommon however that once the song is picked up by an artist, that their own spin is put on the song and it’s simply just your lyrics.
Communication skills and personality also go a long way. When writing with others, your personality needs to shine. It’s hard to do anything authentically if it’s not truly you who’s doing it.
With regard to communication, the best-co-written songs were probably done with honest and direct feedback. Understanding how to convey this to another person when writing something that may be from a personal experience can be hard to do. Never the less it needs to be done.
Do You Need a Formal Education To Become a Songwriter?
The short answer to this is no. Over the course of the songwriting business, a proper four-year college education has not been a requirement. However, with the field growing more expansive every year, some form of education could place you ahead of the pack depending on the talent you already possess.
Looking for a program, that specializes in the art of songwriting is probably your best bet. If you have been writing songs confidently for years or just starting out, learning more is never a bad thing. A properly crafted course or trade school will build upon what you’ve learned yourself and help develop that talent in a direction where it would be welcomed in the commercial market.
Finish The Songs You Write!
One of the most relevant plagues to hit the music industry is not finishing what you start. We’ve all been there, starting project after project with folders full of unfinished products. Unfortunately, no one wants to hear a song that’s half completed. The only thing you can do in this situation is to finish it.
One of the most productive things you can do is finish every song you start, whether you think it is good or not. Repetition and completion win every time. We all suffer from the feeling of being stuck, but that’s all it really is, a feeling.
Forcing yourself to finish songs will also force you to continue writing and ultimately make you better. You can edit until the cows come home, what’s important is finishing that song.
Build a Network
When getting started as a songwriter it is important to meet as many other writers as you can. It’s also important for your work to be heard by producers and music publishing companies.
In a city like Nashville or Los Angeles, there are writers’ rounds almost nightly worth going to. At these events, you will find writers at many different stages in their careers. Introduce yourself to them, compliment the song they just played.
What I’m trying to say is make a friend, business can come later. You need to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who have the same or as close to a goal as yourself. Writing with others can exponentially increase your ability.
When you are comfortable with your songs, share them with others. Sign up for a round and perform them to the best of your ability. You never know who may be listening. It could be a publisher or even an artist looking for the next song on their upcoming record.
If you are not in a city with bustling rounds, these same connections can be made digitally. Contacts can be made via social media networking and by collaborating with others via digital platforms. Although this is usually more difficult, I know plenty of writers who did this method until making the move to a city like Nashville.
You may also want to join a professional organization like the Songwriters Guild of America. This organization was created to protect the rights of songwriters and help them improve their skills. If you are a member, you have the opportunity to attend seminars and network with other industry professionals involved in the business.
Get Out There!
With all this said, the easiest way to become a songwriter is simply to start writing songs. The longer you wait, the less material you’ll put out. Dive in headfirst and write what seems natural to you.
Not everything you write will be good, trust me, I know from experience. But, at the same time, not everything will be bad.
Over time you will develop your own style and probably tend to write in your preferred genre. Get out there, meet people and start writing today. Remember why you started writing, you enjoy doing it.
Tie It All Together
If you are interested in learning more about the music business and how to become a successful songwriter, Dark Horse Institute’s Music Business and Songwriting Programs are a great way to take things to the next level when you are ready.