You’ve probably heard the “starving artist” expression more than once in your life as a musician. And while there are plenty of stereotypes about songwriters and their financial struggles, unfortunately, many of those stereotypes are true. Songwriting isn’t always a lucrative profession, especially when you’re just starting out.
In many cases though, it’s just a matter of getting your foot in the door with a great song, or getting noticed by a popular artist to start making real money from your words and music. But what can you do to make that happen? How can you jump-start your career as a songwriter, even if you’re struggling to pay your bills? Let’s take a look at a few tips you can use to work toward a successful songwriting career while remaining financially stable.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job — Yet!
Becoming a successful song writer takes time, which can be frustrating. But, a good rule of thumb is to think more about the longevity of your songwriting career, rather than just writing one hit. Keep in mind that in 2019, out of the ten biggest songs of the year (according to Rolling Stone), not one was written by the artist who performed it. So, you have the opportunity to write for a variety of artists for many years, but you can’t jump the gun in doing so.
Yes, we’re saying you should keep your day job for now. Even if you’re just working part-time, a steady job can support your passion while making sure you can still pay rent. Make sure you’re being properly compensated for whatever work you’re doing by keeping track of your timesheets and looking at overtime options whenever they’re available. Further, if you’re working in the US, consider reviewing your W-4 tax form to make sure you’re taking advantage of tax returns as much as you can. After all, every penny counts when you’re working toward a dream.
A long and lucrative songwriting career takes time, perseverance, and patience, as well as promotion and networking. Having a job you can rely on to pay the bills makes it easier to promote your music and travel to meet with other musicians and executives. So, while it might be tempting to go into full-time songwriting, try to hold off until you know you have some financial stability as a writer.
How Your Songs Can Stand Out
There are thousands of songwriters all over the world, all of them with passion, many of them with exquisite talent. So, how can you stand out, especially when you’re just getting started? Keep some of these tips in mind to help you reach beyond your competition:
- Discover what makes your songs unique
- Establish yourself as a brand/consistent voice
- Build a network
- Continue to adapt, grow, and make changes as necessary
As a songwriter, you shouldn’t be trying to write songs that are just like everyone else’s. Part of being a great writer is doing something unique and creating something different that can still be a hit. Think about how musical genres have changed over the years, with new ones being introduced that have changed the world. The songwriters behind those changes are the ones who make a difference and the ones that stand out.
So, don’t be afraid to be different. Let your passion come forward in every word and note you write instead of trying to fit some kind of cookie cutter process. When you truly put yourself into a song, people will take notice.
Mistakes to Avoid
It’s normal for artists in every capacity to be excited and passionate about their work, and songwriters are no exception. When you feel like you have a great song in your possession, you might be anxious to do whatever you can to get it in the right person’s hands (or ears!).
But, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is investing too much into your songwriting career before it really gets off the ground. As a songwriter, you only need a few basic things to succeed and be taken seriously in the industry. Simple recording equipment will suffice for making demos in your own home. You don’t need to go into debt purchasing expensive equipment or multiple instruments. If you have a microphone and adequate audio software, you can create something that sounds great, and send it to artists or studios.
Speaking of going into debt, that’s another reason to avoid quitting your job. If you’re trying to build your songwriting career, you could be racking up expenses on your credit card. If you don’t have the means to pay your bills each month, it could damage your credit score and hurt your financial situation. Bad credit can keep you from making major purchases in the future that you may need, like a car or van, or even a new place to live.
Though it’s important to be excited about your passion, it’s even more important to be smart about it. Keep your financial situation in mind while you’re pursuing your career, and take advantage of the resources available to you in order to get your music out there safely, efficiently, and effectively.
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