I was coaching a new songwriting client this week and on e of the first things I try and ask is where they are now as a writer. Her story was one I've heard many times and shared some of the same details myself over the years.
Here's how it goes. You work hard at your craft and you have a gift. Let's pray the gift part is true cause you're gonna need this one! So...you pay some dues and you get in front of the people who can actually get you to the next step. Publisher, manager, whatever that connection looks like. For the sake of our discussion lets call him your publisher. Chances are you wrote your songs on your own. Most of us did because it's hard to find a co-writer if you don't already know a little something about putting a song together.
Here's where it gets a little stickier. To up the odds of your song getting cut (and recouping their investment) your new publisher is going to hook you up with another writer. Just good business . Double the odds if two people are working your song. If you're reading this, I'm thinking you know this reality of the songwriting world. The best case scenario is that your publisher is good. Let me stop for a minute on this point. If you're like me when I started out, just having a publisher give you money to do what you'd be doing anyway is enough. You're now a writer! This one's debatable but we'll push on.
The good publisher is concerned with longevity. Catalog. Sure you've written one good song but can you do it again? Did you luck out and show up for a writing appointment with the guy who had been saving the 'money' idea? Will you suffer from sophomore jinx? If this guy's company is investing in you they want to see you turn water into wine. More than once.
The good publisher considers every writing appointment as a step. Hopefully you get to "write up", meaning learning from someone better. Your good publisher has made these life connections with other writers and those writers trust that you are worth it. The good publisher is grooming you for the long run. You learn, they earn.
Then there's the bad publisher. These are the ones who come in two forms. One is the one disgruntled writers talk about: "My publisher didn't do crap for me. Gave me a check and when nothing happened, dropped me and kept my copyrights!" Well, this does happen and that's what it looks like. The other is the one who gives you enough rope.
Here's why I'm quoting The Who. Who are you? Who who? Who who?
What kind of writer are you? What are your strengths? Are you strong enough to keep strengthening the weaknesses in your game? Co-writing can take a toll here. You might end up (with a bad publisher) just ignoring what you don't do well because someone else does it better. We all want the best songs at the end of the day but the good publisher wants you to be a complete writer. Obviously, you want this as well. But do you know your own strengths and do you have at least a passing knowledge of the music business?
In a lifetime of working on all sorts of projects and being called to come up with everything from a title to a groove, it always helps me to be well-rounded and well versed in as much as possible when it comes to music. It also helps to pick your network of people, with the long run in mind. I didn't always do that. But I can encourage writers and artists to do better.
The songwriter I'm working with has come out on the other side of the business, without bitterness, and is looking to write songs on her own to remember why she started doing this in the first place. I LOVE this part of my job.
Work at finding who you are before you turn that over to the Business of music!
Tell me your stories...I really wanna know.
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