At a music conference I attended, one of the panelists was a very successful motivational speaker who worked her original music into her presentations. She explained how she had built a thriving career and then she sang some of her songs for us. In one of them there was a line that said something like, “Maybe we are all meant to do what we secretly dream.” I absolutely believe that, but I don’t think it means we should all do it for a living.
I did a consultation once with a songwriter who made frequent trips to Nashville and worked hard at trying to pitch his songs. During our meeting he said to me, “I have to believe that if I keep at it I’ll get some cuts eventually because I don’t have enough money for retirement.” His songs were entertaining and well written and there was no reason for him not to believe in the value of his work. But they were not at all commercial and his blind faith that they would create income was troubling to me.
Songwriting itself is a joyful, satisfying process and anyone who does it should feel good about their ability to express themselves in words and music. But trying to make money as a songwriter is a different story. It’s harder than anyone imagines when they are starting out. Talent is not the winning hand – it’s just the ante that let’s you sit at the table. Every time I host a Play for Publishers workshop I say: “If anything you hear in these three days discourages you from pursuing this any further, you’re welcome.”
If you are writing songs with the idea that you are going to get cuts, you might want to ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you convinced your songs are great even though only your friends and family have heard them?
- Do you automatically disagree with any negative feedback you receive?
- Do you tell yourself that if your style doesn’t fit the market, it’s because there is something wrong with the market?
- Do you devote yourself to the creative part of songwriting and ignore the business aspects of it?
- Do you think that a part-time effort will make you competitive with professionals who devote their lives to perfecting their craft and building their network?
- Do you think you can write at a professional level without many years of hard work?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, your belief in yourself might actually be holding you back. Dream big, but don’t kid yourself.