Polishing Songs Has a Limit

Scott Borchetta is an American record executive, known mostly as the founder of Big Machine Label Group. You may not know who he is, but suffice it to say that he’s spent a lot of his career working in the business end of music. He started Big Machine Records, and his first major client was a then-14-year-old Taylor Swift.

Once in a while I like reading what executives say about music, because they are driven by the need to see tangible examples of musical success. Execs don’t live in a dream world. They are very much “show me the money” kinds of people, both virtually and literally.

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I mention Borchetta because he once said something that every songwriter needs to hear:

“If you don’t have great songs, it doesn’t matter the marketing or how many times you are on TV; you can only polish it so much.”

If you think that success is going to depend on the media coverage and/or record deals you get, it’s fair to say that you are missing the most important part of the formula for success: consistently excellent songwriting.

It takes excellent production to make a great song. But no producer, no matter how good they are, can be successful if the song isn’t excellent in the first place. If you want the music business to notice you as a songwriter, one good song will not do it, and it doesn’t matter how good that song is.

The only thing that matters is consistent excellence.

So if you’re a songwriter, you need to be listening to lots of songs from lots of genres and figuring out why the good ones are so good. The successful songwriters are the ones who can learn those lessons and apply them to their own songwriting.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter

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One Comment

  1. I’m a long term business executive myself and thought your article today looking at the music business from that perspective was long overdue. I do agree consistent quality content is key, however there’s a lot more that I think is worth mentioning. Taylor Swift was like many of us, a decent songwriter, she was not Mozart. But she was young, pretty, photogenic and appealed to the right genre. She could be a product marketed to those who purchase more music. The music execs hired professional writers to assist the productions. I daresay just on her own the quality and consistency could not have been what she was made into.

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