The industry has changed a lot in the last 15 years; the advent of iTunes and Spotify means a hit single is more important than ever. And for increasingly risk averse labels, using a songwriter with a proven track record may be a safer bet than going out on a limb for someone new. So how can budding songwriters get their songs to successful artists?
Network and skills
Talent is important, but building strong personal relationships is the cornerstone of a successful music career.
One way to get your foot in the door is to offer to work as an assistant to a successful songwriter and producer. Don’t be too proud to do minor production jobs. Being in the room is half the battle and if an artist is going to spend months in the studio, they’d prefer a talented person who is easy to work with.
Find others who compliment your skills. If you’re a topline writer specialising in lyrics and melody, form a team with a track writer. It used to be that a guitar with a vocal was enough to identify a hit. Now, you have to be able to produce the track too. If you can’t do it yourself, bring someone on board the team who has the production skills you need.
For an unknown songwriter, collecting societies like PRS For Music (prsformusic.com) can play a vital part in enabling collaborations with other writers. With links to songwriting camps, funding opportunities and networking events, they can be an important resource to meet people you may go on to work with.
How to get heard
Having a manager or independent publisher can help you get your songs heard by the right people – and smaller indies may be more likely to listen to tracks that are sent to them. They’re less likely to be able to compete for big artists with big advances, so they need to get involved with talented songwriters in the early stages.
Make sure that they already publish contemporary writers, and do your research before you approach them. Be certain you are the right fit for each other. And if you’re thinking of going down this route, it is worth getting advice before you dive in. Get in touch via theMU.org.
Talent, tenacity and a little luck
Digital technology may have made it harder to make a living as a songwriter, but it has also opened up doors for songwriters to take charge of their careers and develop their own projects.
Being a professional songwriter today requires much more than just making music – it also takes an innovative business mind and a friendly disposition. MU members can take free courses in business skills, marketing and more – all geared towards freelancers – and get specialist advice from expert officials at the Union.
Luck also plays a big part, so it’s important to make the most of any opportunity you get that feels right for you.
For advice on the issues raised above, or any other aspect of your career as a musician, get in touch via theMU.org
A longer version of this article first appeared in The Musician Summer 2015 and can be accessed via theMU.org
The MU’s Ben Jones hosts the panel discussion “It All Starts With The Song: Entrepreneurship in Music Publishing & Copyright in association with The Musicians Union” at the Apple Store, Friday 209 November at this year’s City Showcase.