You have to work very, very hard for a just a little bit of luck in the music industry. There are so many beautifully talented artists in this world, and it’s so easy to become overwhelmed by the idea of being one small fish in what feels like many oceans. Instead of being intimidated or striking up ugly green competition with your counterparts, use the multitude of likeminded artists around you to your advantage.
Songwriters are special creatures. We are spectators, empathetic beings, and constantly translating emotion onto paper. You may not know it yet, but one of your greatest strengths can be the ability to connect with others.
So do it.
Interact with the musicians around you. You may have written your best song alone in your bedroom, but it’s about more than that. Creating a long lasting career takes a village – or, people who support one another. Here are a few navigation tips I wish I knew in the beginning of my career:
1. There is no way of knowing who is going to be plucked from the bucket next.
Don’t cling to the cool kids. Don’t pursue people that you think are going to be the next big thing. Find the artists whose work you admire and connect with them. If you vibe with someone’s music, there’s a good chance you’re going to work well with them. Find your people, not your posse.
2. Go to your friends’ performances.
This seems obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don’t show up and support their music making peers. It’s important to show face because there is going to come a time where you need heads in a room and the favor returned. Also, buying tickets to concerts is what makes the industry go round. Most importantly, seeing someone in their element live is inspiring and always an opportunity to learn something new!
3. Never, ever stop writing.
If you’re going to be “something” in this world, then be the best damn “something” there is. If you’re going to call yourself a songwriter, then make sure you have an arsenal of material ready to work at any given time. You never know what session you might be asked to hop in on. Make sure you have it together so you don’t miss any opportunities to work with people.
4. Don’t burn bridges.
Again, you never know who is going to make it next in this industry. There is no foreseeable timeline attached to musicians so don’t write them off just because they’re not growing parallel to you. There’s a way to speak to people and a way to end relationships amicably. Lead a relationship by good example and leave the future open not barbed with past fallouts.
5. Speak up!
Just because you’re not a producer doesn’t mean that you should sit next to a producer in the studio silent. No one knows the sound you’re after better than you do. You might not know the technical aspect of how to create the palette and structure of a song, but you should know what it takes and be able to find the appropriate references and language in order to properly articulate your vision.
I know that working with producers can be intimidating. When I first started working with producers, I was just so grateful to be working with anyone at all that I nodded my head in agreement to almost everything. If you know what you want, don’t be afraid to speak up. The sooner the better, trust me.
6. When you know, you know.
Don’t force relationships. They should come naturally. It’s impossible to have a strong connection with every musician you meet. Take the session, try it out, and if it doesn’t work, both parties are going to feel something is off. Maximize your time by listening to your instincts when it comes to producers, songwriters and instrumentalists.
7. There is no such thing as an overnight success.
It is so easy to be jealous of others who are finding success in the music industry, but know that the people who are excelling probably worked extremely hard for their bite. It doesn’t come easy or without struggle. If one of your friends is finding success, it means that you’re surrounded by the right people. It’s a good thing when another musician starts to make traction. Your time will come because there is no expiration date if you don’t give up.