The Business of Songwriting – It’s Not Good Enough To Be Good

In the world of professional songwriting, good means you aren’t rising above the rest.

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Music ProducersIn my eBook “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting”, I draw an analogy between writing a great hit song and playing a game of football. In that description, I make the point that it’s possible for a football team to do everything right and still lose the game. That’s because in football, sometimes the ball just bounces the wrong way.

But that’s not to say that winning a football game is a totally random circumstance. Even though you can do everything right and still lose the game, some teams are more likely to succeed than others. It comes down to two important things:

  1. Individual talent.
  2. How well the team plays together.

Success in songwriting also comes down to two things:

  1. Individual talent.
  2. Timing.

In reality, success in songwriting often requires several other important factors:

  1. An ample collection of good songs.
  2. Well-recorded demos.
  3. Patience.

Point # 1 in all three of the lists above are the most crucial points in the complex formula that makes up the songwriting business world. It needs to be said loud and clear: An excellently recorded demo will mean nothing if your songs are not consistently good.

That is why I’ve spent the vast majority of my time on this blog addressing the nuts and bolts of songwriting. If your desire is to make it in the music business, it takes a tremendous amount of hard work, patience and timing.

But none of those things matter if your songs are flawed. In fact, you really should read this great article by professional songwriter Jason Blume, who recounts the story that at first, his songs were rejected mainly because they were good, but didn’t rise to being exceptional. To be successful in the songwriting business, it’s not good enough to be good.

Somehow, your music needs to go beyond good; it needs to become exceptional. The first step in that direction is to get a handle on how the best hit songs of the past 6 decades became exceptional. It’s why I wrote “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting.” True, it pre-supposes that the reader has some talent for songwriting, but I’ve always believed that even a bit of talent can go a long, long way.

If your dream is to break into the business world of songwriting, the first step is to become better than good. You need to become an exceptional songwriter, and you need to be writing exceptional music with some measure of regularity. You need to be a writer of dependable quality.

Improve your songwriting technique, and you’ve got a fighting chance!


Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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Posted in Songwriting Business and tagged , , , , , .


  1. Gary- how does this tie into the philosophies espoused like “perfect is the enemy of good.” Certainly for me, I think, trying to create an exceptional song every time I sit down to write is overwhelming and would probably lead to procrastination.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Trying to create an exceptional song should not necessarily mean that we should beat ourselves up if we feel the song is lacking somehow. We can, of course, keep honing each song until it becomes something close to that ideal we have in our musical mind. And there are times when it’s best to move on to something else, call that song ‘done’, and improve our compositional skills with the next song. If you find that striving to be exceptional scares you to the point where you put off writing, you’re thinking of being exceptional simply as ‘pressure’, when you should be thinking of it as an ideal that’s worthy to aim for.


  2. You hint at this in your article, but I would add persistence and discipline. From everything I have ever read, the best songwriters work on their songs all the time, they never stop. Of course, I’ve never had a hit of any sort, so what do I know?!

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