I often tell my students who write songs that I teach Tools-Not Rules. There are no rules in songwriting. Likewise, there is no roadmap outlining the path to guaranteed success. But there are three things I constantly see in those who achieve their songwriting goals. Let’s take a look at the “three points” that can lead to songwriting success.
sush the Creative Envelope
It can be tempting to try to emulate hit songs and record artists; To believe that what worked previously will work again. But those songs and artists who have made progress do so not because they reformulate what was previously successful, but because they create something new. We already have Taylor Swift, Julia Michaels, Halsey, Maren Morris, Kanye West, Gabby Barrett, and other artists who have made a niche for themselves. These artists and the songs they sing are original.
Before their hits topped the charts, no previous songs sounded like “Old Town Road” (written by Lil Nas X, Atticus Ross, Kiowa Rukima and Trent Reznor, recorded by Lil Nas X, with a version featuring Billy Ray Cyrus), or “Havana”. (By Camila Cabello, Lewis Peel, Adam Finney, Caan Jonesbird, Brittany Hazzard, Brian Lee, Ali Tambusi, Jeffrey Williams, Pharrell Williams, Andrew Wattman; Recorded by Camila Cabello featuring Young Thag). Either way, songs played a huge role in establishing and defining the artists’ identity. Additionally, studies show that people tend to prefer novelty, variety, and surprises in music. So be brave. Experiment with grooves, melodies, rhythms, lyrical themes and instrumentation. Be innovative, new and exciting. Create the next big thing.
First, I will clarify a common misconception. Many songwriters expect that, except for administrative functions such as issuing licenses and collecting royalties, a publisher’s primary function is to play songs for artists seeking to record songs. In ages past, this model accurately described how the majority of songs found their way onto the charts. While there have always been artists of all kinds who have been exceptional songwriters, many singers have been considered songwriters who have built their careers by recording songs written by unrepresented songwriters.
The rise in popularity of folk singers and songwriters and the British invasion led to many artists recording material that they wrote themselves. However, there were many opportunities for publishers to place songs written by their authors. The massive successes of writers such as those in the Brill Building and in Motown testify to the usefulness of unrepresented songwriters and their publishers who had outlets for their songs that day.
To some extent, this approach is still valid in country music and Christian music with an estimated 30% of recorded songs foreign songs – Those that were not written or written by the recording artist or someone within the project, such as the record producer or someone in the artist’s squad. But a look at the songwriting credits for pop, R&B/hip hop, rock, dance, and alternative rock today reveals that songs in these genres are often written or written by the artists who recorded them.
Currently, the functionality of the publishers has changed. In order to record the songs of their writers, in most cases they are tasked with establishing collaborations between the writers they represent and recording artists who are looking for collaborators. Few unrepresented songwriters have writing links with successful artists unless they have already established a track record.
There are only a few cases of non-represented songwriters who have achieved and continued chart success without aligning with an active music publisher. My best advice to aspiring songwriters is to write the kinds of songs that make the publisher take notice – then put yourself in the places where the publishers and the people who have access to them can hear your songs.
In my article “The Most Important Characteristic of Songwriters and Recording Artists – Perseverance,” I recount multiple stories of song and recording artists that took years—and in some cases decades—before they achieved success. Stories like this are more common than overnight success stories. It can take years to master the deceptively simple task of writing songs with melodies and lyrics that connect with listeners, and many more years before the stars line up and bring those songs to the top of the charts.
The rejections and disappointments inherent in the songwriting business can be harsh. The rise and fall of the roller coaster can be especially difficult for creative people. But in a business that comes with few guarantees, we can rest assured that only those who persist and believe in themselves and find happiness in writing can achieve success.
Maximize your chances of achieving your goals by writing songs that drive the creative mood — songs that demand attention. Strive to match with effective publishers, and most of all, keep following!
Jason Bloom he is an author 6 Steps to Successful SongwritingAnd This is a songwriting job, And Inside songwriting (Billboard Books). His songs are on Grammy-nominated albums and have sold over 50,000,000 copies. He has been a guest lecturer at the Liverpool Institute of Dramatic Art (co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney) and at Berklee School of Music and has been interviewed as a songwriter at CNN, NPR, BBC, rolling rock, and the The New York Times. For information on workshops, webinars, additional articles and more, visit www.jasonblume.com.