By Eric Copeland
It’s a unique life for those of us who consider ourselves a songwriter. You love to write, but wouldn’t it also be great to find success, acceptance, and possibly income?
We all dream of that day when we are sitting in the music publisher’s office and he nods as our song plays. Or we play that worship song for our congregation and it is performed at other churches and goes viral online. Or we are able to go to Nashville and write with others and be part of a successful song.
Rewind to now. How do you get there? Where do you start with what you have? Or how do you write or co-write that song that will take you (and maybe your whole songwriting career) to a new level of success?
Step One: Learn from a Master
“What is a master but a master student? And if that’s true, then there’s a responsibility on you to keep getting better and to explore avenues of your profession.” – Neil Peart
There is a process that has existed for thousands of years, and it’s called Master and Apprentice. Anyone wanting to become better at their craft has traditionally learned at the feet of someone who has been doing the craft at a high level for decades. This allows for real world training, absorption of wisdom from a life in that craft, and the ability to learn the correct way to do things.
Anyone who listens to music, and can sing or play an instrument, can mimic the initial phases of writing a song. Basically writing a lyric and putting melody to it is all it takes to craft a “song”. But everything after that, from improving the song’s melody, to writing original, well thought-out lyrics, to the form, contrast, and hook; these are things that most beginning or intermediate songwriters can learn from mature, experienced songwriters.
Maybe this means working with other talented songwriters in your area, or going to a Worship Conference to learn from amazing writers, or making connections in music cities like Nashville where they are writing hit songs for the industry and the church.
Step Two: The Right Production
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from – if you put quality work out there, it will be appreciated.” – Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
We used to call this a demo, and in some cases, a guitar/vocal or piano/vocal version is best for some things. But publishers like to hear well-realized versions of songs to imagine what they could be used for and which genre the song fits best. Also, artists and producers who are pitched a song by publishers prefer to hear more produced versions, and it’s helpful if they are done by professionals they are accustomed to.
I’ve heard many productions where a songwriter will produce “full” versions using their limited skills in the home studio, and because of some inadequacy on the playing, singing, or mixing, the ability to hear and find a use for the songs is compromised. This is especially true if you can’t finish listening to the song because of it’s quality.
Step Three: Getting the Song to the Right Ears
“Good music will always be recognized in the end.” – Suga
So let’s say you do have a strong commercial song for an artist or worship, and a great Nashville production. What do you do then?
Some call the pitching of songs the actual hardest part of the process. Finding someone who will not only agree to meet with you, but will be a good connection for years to come for pitching is as invaluable as a hit song.
Showing the song to a publisher may result in a “thanks but no thanks”, or could be a hold, or even a referral to an artist or producer currently looking for songs. But the most important thing is that the meeting may be an open door for more pitches down the line.
Step Four: Repeat
“I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.” – John D. Rockefeller
Then after that meeting, whatever the result, it’s time to start the whole process over again. This is the life of a songwriter. It’s how it works: write/co-write, produce, pitch, repeat.
It may seem fruitless at times, it may seem no one is listening, and it may seem that it’s a zero sum game, but every song has an unlimited life. A publisher could choose to revisit a song they heard from you and kept in their catalog, you may find a use for a song you wrote 20 years ago for a message series next week, or you may write that next great one tomorrow.
Keep the faith! Keep working! And keep improving through the steps.
After all, how many people do you know that actually get to live the life of a songwriter?
Have a great week!
CRW Radio Promotions specializes in getting radio airplay for Indie artists and worship leaders. Click here http://www.crwradiopromotions.com/comp/singlesroster.html to see and hear the current lineup of singles getting national airplay – and contact Larry Myers at 308.946.5550 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
Eric Copeland is a songwriter, producer, and president of Creative Soul Records in Nashville, TN. He works with artists, songwriters, churches, and just about anyone God brings his way for help. Eric started as a songwriter at 13, and working in the church earlier than that in choirs and groups. He has been working with Christian artists in and out of the church ever since then. In the late 1990s, Eric became known nationally as a producer that could help the beginning or intermediate Christian artist or songwriter start or restart their music ministry.
Since then, his music ministry consulting, production, and marketing company Creative Soul has helped hundreds of artists, writers, and churches. He now works with the top producers, players, engineers, singers, and other talent in Nashville and all around the country to give the ministries he serves the best that our great God deserves. For more information, more inspirational articles like this one, and great Christian artist songs and stories, go to CreativeSoulOnline.com