I used to live in Nashville in the 1990’s, and at the time I didn’t consider myself a composer even though I wrote occasionally. I recorded my works on an old Tascam multitrack cassette recorder but that’s as far as it got for a while. Only much later did I decide to put them all together on a CD (which you can listen to here).
I wasn’t serious about a music career then, which was fine, because I was focused on other things. If I had really wanted to pursue one, however, I would have put together some sort of plan. And therein lies the lesson.
Nearly everyone I met in Nashville back then said he or she was a singer/songwriter, or that someone in their immediate circle was. And a lot of the people who claimed to be singer/songwriters told me sad stories of moving to Nashville with dreams of making it big. They’d been there for months, years, but had never gotten their Big Break.
To be totally fair, I suppose that the old business model of music was still in force back then. The labels were still large and in charge. Al Gore had just invented the internet. And email addresses and websites were not ubiquitous: lyrics and demos still got delivered though the mail and FedEx (nee Federal Express). But I’m wondering how many of the would-be singer-songwriters who never got their Big Break actually planned for one.
That’s why I got so pumped up when I read David J. Hahn‘s recent blog post, “How I’m Building a Songwriting Career.” It was exciting to me because here was a published plan by someone who had taken the time to think through the process! He’s very clear about his goal:
My goal is to have recording artists cover my songs on their albums, secure film and television placements for my music, and to work professionally as a songwriter and composer. A difficult goal, to be sure.
Most of the steps that he outlines involve websites and auto-responder emails, tools not readily available to artists 20 years ago. But most of the other stuff hasn’t changed at all:
- Make and maintain good industry contacts (relationships).
- Make quality recordings (much easier to do today).
- Get and stay involved with the songwriter community (network).
- Keep submitting recordings.
And I like the way he sums it all up:
Becoming a professional songwriter seems like an impossible challenge, but I think with the plan and tools that I’ve described above will help me start the journey.
I hope all who aspire to become a singer/songwriters (and composers) take note and follow his lead. Because I love it when a plan comes together.