Why do you write songs? How do you measure your success? Those are important questions because they help define your purpose as a songwriter.
Most of the good music we hear in our lives has been written, performed, produced and recorded by professionals. For most of those professionals, they have a very specific definition of success: sales.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. If you’re a professional in the field of songwriting, you need to make money. And sales, either directly through units or downloads streamed or sold, and concerts, or indirectly through ads on your YouTube channel for example, are how you might make that money.
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If that’s what you call success, it’s pretty clear what you need to be doing. You need to write great songs, but you need to have them professionally recorded and produced. If you’re doing it all yourself, particularly the production stage, it’s going to be hit-or-miss whether you make it in the professional world or not. Getting professionals involved increases your chances for being successful.
But there are many definitions of success, and for you, selling your music may not be what would give you happiness. There are many ways that songwriting can be successful for you, and give you an important sense of purpose:
- You write for your own personal enjoyment.
- You write songs for your children to sing and remember for the rest of their lives.
- You write songs that describe the history and people of your town or city.
That list could be much longer, of course. And through it all, if songwriting makes you some money along the way, that’s great too.
The thing is, just because your aim in life is perhaps not to be a career songwriter should have little or nothing to do with how good a songwriter you are. In other words, all songs need to be well written if we plan to derive any satisfaction from the activity of writing.
In that sense, songwriting is not much different from being a home carpenter — the person who makes cabinets and bookshelves for their own use in their own house. The fact that you don’t plan to sell the items should have little or nothing to do with how well they’re made.
As a songwriter, the fact that you don’t plan to sell your songs should have little or nothing to do with how well they’re written.
Though your purpose differs from those who call themselves professional songwriters, you should have the same aims and goals: to write and perform your songs to the highest degree of artistry that you can.
So even if your main purpose is to write songs and venture no further than to sing them at the local café on a Friday night, you want those songs to be excellent. And like professional songwriters you’ll want to:
- Set a regular time for daily writing.
- Listen to lots of music, especially songs from outside your genre of choice.
- Talk to other songwriters about how they do what they do.
- Read about the craft of songwriting.
- Work hard to produce the best, most professional quality recordings of your music that you can manage or afford.
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