Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Songwriter's Life

It's a unique life for those of us who consider ourselves a songwriter. You love to write, but you want to find success, acceptance, 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. Will he keep listening? Will he like the song? Could this be the start of something big? Of a long relationship?

Rewind to now. How do you get there? Where do you start with what you have? Or how do you 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, master songwriters.

Step Two: The Right Production

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 can be on a record. Also, artists and producers who are pitched a song by publishers prefer to hear more produced versions, as long as 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, liking the songs becomes difficult. 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

So let's say you do have a strong commercial song, 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

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, you may see a use for a song you wrote 20 years ago, 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!

Eric Copeland started all the work he does forty years ago when he wrote his first real song, "Now That You're Gone". It started a lifelong obsession with songwriting, producing, and working with other music people. Now he helps songwriters, artists, and all music folks pursue their dreams and goals. Find out more at

About Me

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Eric Copeland is an author, producer, keyboardist, songwriter, and president of Creative Soul Companies. What is Creative Soul? Our main goals are to inform, encourage, and assist Christian creative folks in ministry, no matter where they are in their journey. Thanks for reading! Find out more about us at