You know that in the pop music genres, stardom is fleeting. Look at the bio of any successful artist, and you’re seeing a rise, then a fall, in popularity. Sometimes, if you’re a songwriting member of a group like, say, the Bee Gees, you might see that rise and fall happen twice – an early taste of stardom, and then after a shift in musical direction, a second successful phase.
What accounts for a rise and fall in popularity in pop music careers? You don’t see the same thing when it comes to classical composition — at least not to the same degree. In fact, the notion that some composers don’t see their greatest popularity until after their death is not a myth, at least in some cases.
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The reason for this is that classical composers have the benefit of having their music judged almost solely on its musical merits. We think that Brahms is a great composer, not because so many other people like his music, but rather his compositions are structurally sound, unique and imaginative.
But pop musicians (performers, anyway) must work another element into the formula for musical success: personal popularity. Having a successful career as a performing artist means being popular in ways and aspects that are quite apart from musical talent.
For those musicians who are exceedingly popular, you’d find that, not only will other songwriters try to write music the way they do, but also that the public might make fashion choices (hair style, clothes, etc.) based on what their favourite singers and bands have chosen for themselves.
You might have written some great songs, but if your career hasn’t been managed properly, or those songs are not produced professionally, you may not see success even though your songs may be musically very strong.
The Great Song At the Centre
Having said that, though, at the heart of any good career is a great song. If you’re on your way up and you’re hoping to make the kind of impact on the world that the greatest songwriters have made, you need to have written great songs.
You may wonder why this even needs to be mentioned at all. Of course, you probably think, your songs need to be great. But in fact, many songwriters put a lot of effort into getting a great website, easy streaming possibilities, great promotion via social media, etc. But they neglect one of the most important things: the great song.
The best producers of classic rock — George Martin (The Beatles), Bill Szymczyk (Eagles), Quincy Jones (Michael Jackson et al), Roy Thomas Baker (Queen) — became legendary for the groups they worked with, but would never have become legendary at all if they didn’t have great songs to work with.
So if you find yourself stuck and wondering how to become more popular as a singer-songwriter, and you really want that career, you’ve got to move out of the amateur world into the professional world by getting professional producers and managers involved.
And those professionals are not going to involve themselves in your career unless:
- You write great songs.
- You write great songs CONSISTENTLY.
A good professional manager can take care of the nuts and bolts of your career, and a professional producer will get your songs sounding their best, properly targeting the audience you’re aiming for.
But no one will hitch themselves to your wagon if, at the core, you don’t have excellent songs forthcoming.
If you write purely by instinct, I can make a pretty good guess that your music is randomly good. Random success — that one good song that happens “out of the blue” — is of little interest to those in the professional world, because there’s no way of knowing when that great song will be followed by another great one.
But if you write with a healthy combination of instinct, imagination, and knowledge… THAT’S a winning combination, and sets you up for the kind of career you may be looking for.
The best ways to improve your songwriting technique are to listen to great songs, and then to study great songs. It’s why I wrote my songwriting e-book bundle. It looks at every aspect of great songs, and shows how and why they work so well. And then gives you suggestions for incorporating those techniques in your own songwriting.
In that regard, the best thing you as a songwriter can be doing for yourself is to look for ways to make the writing of great songs something that happens consistently. Once you’ve got that happening, you’ve given yourself the best chance possible for having professionals in the music business take the risk of involving themselves in your potential career.
Have a great melody, but stuck at the “how to add chords to it” stage? “How To Harmonize a Melody” shows you, step-by-step and with sound samples, how it’s done, with suggestions for chord substitutions that might work as well. It’s part of “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook Bundle.