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Dwyland Johnson - Blog

4 Things Songwriters Can Do To For A Better 2012

After looking back and taking stock of what last year had to offer, itís time for us to dig in and start preparing ourselves for songwriting success in the year to come.
By Cliff Goldmacher

There are so many facets to life as a songwriter that thereís always something we can do to move the ball forward. To that end, Iíve listed a few New Yearís resolutions, starting with the little things and moving up to the big ones.

1. Write down a song title every day. If you take a minute or two every morning to wake up your inner songwriter, youíll be amazed at the cumulative results by yearís end. Keep a small notebook by your bed and write down a song title first thing every day. Donít spend a ton of time on these; just write down the first thing that comes to mind. Some of your titles will be uninspired but others will be genuinely unique and song-ready. This notebook is a great way of not having to start from scratch when itís time to sit down and write. Sometimes a title that seemed dull when you were writing it down will inspire a great song when you see it again later. Itís a small thing but itís a reminder that inspiration is an active pursuit.

2. Find a new (or your first) co-writer. Carrying the weight of creating a song by yourself is both a worthwhile challenge and a discouraging burden, depending on the day. Sharing the load with a co-writer is a great way to stay motivated and explore different approaches to songwriting. If youíve already got an established group of co-writers, go find someone new to get you out of your regular routine. If youíve never co-written, nowís the time. Finding a co-writer who has strengths where you have weaknesses and vice versa will simply make for better songs. It takes courage and a bit of a thick skin to open up your creative process to another writer, but if youíre both respectful and have a great song as the ultimate goal, youíll almost certainly be glad you did it.

3. Write a song in a genre thatís new to you. As a country songwriting friend said to me once, ďthere are lots of countries.Ē In other words, try to write a song this year in a musical style thatís unfamiliar to you. If you write country, try to write a jazz piece. If you write rock, try country. By expanding your repertoire, youíll force yourself to study different styles of music. This, at the very least, will give you a better understanding of what goes into creating your preferred musical genre. By filtering a different musical style through the prism of your experience, youíll undoubtedly come up with something unique.

4. Donít give up. Songwriting is not a profession for the faint-hearted or the easily discouraged. It can be both exhilarating and demoralizing. All this to say, no matter how bleak things may appear currently or how far away success may seem, the only trait all successful songwriters share is that they havenít given up. A songwriting career is a marathon not a sprint. If things are tough, itís okay to slow down, give yourself a break and go on ďinputĒ for a while. Sometimes just living your life instead of trying to document it is the best way to regain your motivation. Resolve to find the strength to keep at it this year. Thereís a great song out there just waiting for you to write it.

5 Things Songwriters Can Do To Move Their Careers Forward

As a new songwriter, you may be overwhelmed by all there is to do when it comes to moving forward in your career. Iíd compare the approach of this article to eating the elephant one tiny bite at a time. In other words, by being patient, organized and methodical in your daily work as a songwriter, youíre guaranteed to make steady progress in your career. If you follow the suggestions below, the results wonít be immediate, but when you look back after six months or a year, I think youíll be amazed at how much youíve accomplished.
1. Do One ďBusinessĒ Thing Every Day. This is the musical equivalent of eating your vegetables. They may not taste great but theyíre good for you. Itís the same with the business side of music. We all know how much more fun it is to play the guitar, sing and even write compared to making phone calls, sending emails or following up on something youíve already submitted, but if youíre hoping to have financial success with your music, then theyíre all equally important. By making the rule that youíll do one business thing every day means that at the end of a year, youíll have done 365 things to further your career above and beyond your songwriting. I guarantee thatís more than most.
2. Join/Start A Songwriting Group. Getting yourself to write on a consistent basis can be a real struggle. Writing is emotionally draining and tough for most of us to do in a vacuum. Ironically, Iíve found that even we creative types like assignments when it comes to our writing. By joining a songwriting group where youíre required to bring in a new song or a rewrite of an old song every week, youíll have the additional motivation of being held accountable by more than just yourself. It really does work. If youíre not aware of any existing songwriting groups in your area, make it a point to get to local writerís nights and reach out to other writers about starting a group. By simply showing up every week and doing the work, youíll find your songwriting muscles getting stronger no matter whether you agree with all the groupís suggestions or not.
3. Donít Wait For A Publishing Deal To Act Like You Have One. If you find yourself thinking that if only you had a publishing deal then you could write every day, get great demos and have your songs pitched, then Iíd humbly suggest that youíve got it backwards. In order to get a publisher interested in what youíre doing, you need to behave like youíve already got a publishing deal. This means youíll be infinitely more attractive to a publisher if you can show them a body of work thatís well written, well recorded and maybe even includes a cut or two. Donít wait around for the affirmation of a publisher to get up every day and do the work. In fact, if you get to the point where you can do all of the above on your own, you might look up to find you donít need a publisher after all.
4. Make One Song Pitch Every Week. Having exceptional songs and beautiful recordings of those songs is a great start but in terms of getting them recorded by other artists or placed in a film or TV show, they might as well not exist if you havenít shown them to anyone. I know this sounds obvious, but, as songwriters, we get so wrapped up in the creative process that we somehow, amazingly, seem to forget that until someone in the industry has heard our songs, they canít do anything with them. This means you need to begin your search for outlets for your music. There are industry pitch sheets and organizations out there that can help put songwriters together with industry folks looking for songs. Make it your business (see #1 above) to find out about these pitch sheets and begin the process of submitting your songs when you see an appropriate opportunity. If you do this once a week, youíll have pitched to 52 separate opportunities by the end of a year. Thatís a significant number.
5. Reply Promptly To Any Opportunity, No Matter How Small. The likelihood of Faith Hill calling you to ask if youíve got a song for her is small but you should treat every email or voicemail from someone regarding your music as that kind of top priority. If another songwriter reaches out to say they liked one of your songs they heard you perform at a writerís night, reply quickly, even if itís just to say thanks. You never know when a causal contact could turn into something more significant. Our industry is full of stories of songwriters getting their material cut in the least likely of circumstances. All this is to say, thereís no percentage in ignoring or putting off any opportunity no matter how small it may seem at the time. By acting professionally and responding promptly to anyone and everyone who reaches out about your music, youíll be sure not to miss something huge that might appear insignificant at first glance.
As Iím sure you know, thereís no one way to have success as a songwriter. That being said, you can certainly improve your odds by staying patient, working consistently and treating your career with the respect it deserves.