[Note from the editor]
Quick fact: Without the correct songwriting techniques you are just making your music marketing efforts WAY harder if not impossible.
That is why when Gerrell reached out to me to share some songwriting tips with you guys, it was a no-brainer. Especially when the info is coming from a guy who has “Platinum Selling Producer” attached to his name.
Read this and start implementing these techniques into your songwriting process.
Songwriting Tips From Platinum Selling Producer, Gerrell King
It seems like everyday I get a text, an email, or someone sliding in my DM’s asking me for my opinion on their newly written or produced song. I’ve even had girlfriends of artist’s contact me for the sake of their relationship, true story.
Regardless of who it is and how they contact me, I’m always happy to help because I understand the struggles of being an aspiring music producer and songwriter.
Way before I produced the trailer music for one of the highest grossing animated film franchises in history. I too was in the same boat. Wishing I had some kind of guidelines to follow to make sure I was on the right track. Years later, after earning the title “Platinum Selling Producer,” I wrote my own guidelines that you can download for free by clicking here.
Because being successful in the music industry is very difficult and you’ll need as much advice as you can get. The music industry is highly competitive and forever evolving. On top of that, there are so many decisions that go on behind the scenes that the average creative has no idea how political this industry can get.
Took make things easier for you, I took the liberty of making a list for you.
Five Things Successful Songwriters And Producers Do To Avoid Being A Starving Artist
1. Nurturing Relationships
If you’re one of those reclusive creatives that don’t speak much and avoid human contact at all costs, this career might not be for you. The days of being the talent, while someone else handles all of the business, have come and gone. Not only are nurturing relationships something that successful songwriters and music producers do, it’s what ALL successful entrepreneurs do.
This industry is not about talent, which only takes you so far. It’s not even about whom you know, I’m sure you know plenty of people. There’s always an uncle, grandpa, or cousin that used to be signed to this label or managed that person.
This industry is about who knows you!
The more people that know of you, your brand, and your talent, the closer you are to success. That means every encounter you have on a daily basis is a potential opportunity to achieve your goals. All it takes is one conversation, just one. A great conversation with someone will give him or her a reason to respect you and your talents. From there the possibilities are endless.
You may not even do business. Yet, that same person might hear about an opportunity that you’d be perfect for and send it your way. All due to the rapport you built with them over time.
To add to this, your relationship will be even stronger when you can offer them something of value that isn’t necessarily related to your music at al.
Here’s an example of a songwriter speaking to someone they just found out manages songwriters.
Songwriter: I just moved to LA to pursue my music career.
Manager: Moving is such as hassle. I’m in the process of selling my house to move closer to my office.
Songwriter: Oh wow. I have a friend that has a moving company. If you’re interested I can give you their information and maybe get you a low price.
See what just happened there?
Value was offered. Even if the manager declines the offer, the songwriter put themselves in the position to be of resource to the manager and these kind of actions go a long way.
(P.S. If you’d like to download the free music submission checklist click here or the image below)
2. Focus On Melodies First, Then Song Lyrics
Remember being 5 years old and learning your ABC’s? Back when there was a mandatory mid-day nap time and cartoons with cereal on Saturday mornings!
Did you ever wonder why learning things at that age were easier when made into a song?
It was an untold secret that you never acknowledged, the power of melody.
A melody is a sequence of notes that is musically satisfying. For better words, a melody is the part of a song that gets stuck in your head.
Have you ever heard the song “I’m Blue” by Eifel 65? [watch video]
You know the one that goes “I’m blue da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa, da ba dee da ba daa.” That is a melody!
They are simple, easy, and repetitive. Easy enough for a child to remember and just as easy to get you “hooked” to a song you don’t even like.
Incorporating this into your songwriting process plays an essential role and is a factor in determining how well your music will be received. The same goes for you producers out there.
Often times, vocal melodies are replaced with sounds in the music. Other times, the music melody is the driving force of the hook, especially in dance music.
These days, once you have a strong melody it almost doesn’t matter what the words are. Now don’t go off and start writing crappy songs because of this, I highly advise you not to. But for an artists like Young Thug, melody driven verses work just fine. I hardly ever know what he’s saying and yet, I can’t resist attempting to sing the hook when I hear his single, “Lifestyle.”
3. Paint the Picture
The old saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In songwriting a thousand words is a little excessive but the picture is still part of the music.
The most successful songwriters in history have cracked the code to writing great song lyrics and the majority of the time, their works all revolved around the ability to tell a good story.
Rather the song is about love, heartache, or blue Dodge truck, great songwriters know how to tell a story and paint the picture for the listener.
What I mean by painting a picture is using lyrics to describe what it is that the songwriter is looking to express visually.
A great songwriter puts the listener in a position to use their imagination and visualize the story, just like an audio book.
Ever read a book, then watch the movie and feel that the book was better? Part of that is related to your imagination.
If you read a book, you naturally visualize the story in your mind and imagine how characters and scenes look. That’s the same thing a film director does but tries to bring it to life on screen and from their own perspective.
Your job as a songwriter is to paint the picture with a simple story that listeners can relate to.
This is why most songs are about love or partying. Everyone can relate to a song about love or a party. Alessia Cara debut single “Here” is a song telling the story of how she loved being with friends but hated being at a party! How many of us can relate to that?
4. Demo Their Own Vocals
If you work in the music industry you know that things can happen in a matter of seconds. I’ve had plenty of opportunities that were given to me last minute. Staying ready so you don’t have to get ready can set you apart from the competition. Of the successful songwriters that I know and work with, all of them record their own demo vocals and have a home set up to do so. They also know what plug-ins sound best for their voice.
Don’t believe me?
Ever heard the song “Halo” by Beyonce?
See where I’m going with this?
If you are insecure about your singing abilities. Get over it!
You thought you only had to write lyrics? No way!
Lets take a step back and take look at how not singing your demo’s can ruin an opportunity.
Here’s what happens if you don’t sing your own demos:
- Find a producer to get music from.
- Write to the music.
- Find a topliner (a fancy word for demo singer).
- Lay the vocals.
… you have to shop the record around to find an artist, label, or publisher that wants to buy the song.
What if someone wants to buy it and requests a few changes?
Are you going to call the producer, call the singer, book the studio, then record the changes and have it emailed to you? That’s a lot.
Don’t get me wrong, working with a topliner is great, especially someone who can “sang,” but for certain opportunities you won’t have time for that.
Always have your own music recording set up, even it it’s only used to lay rough ideas until you can get back in the studio and work with your team. You can only do so much when you’re constantly relying on others resources and not your own.
5. Stay Productive, Not Busy
As simple as it sounds, this last step is the most difficult to achieve. Staying busy and staying productive are not the same. Busy work is tedious and time consuming with no guaranteed results. To be a successful songwriter or producer you should constantly be working on new material and various projects to maximize your opportunities.
In your early stages, center your work around submitting music to major and independent artists, music publishers, ad agencies, music libraries, SoundCloud fans, and any other opportunities that will result in a check getting cut. Keeping in mind that placements happen in various timeframes. Most of the music you submit will be rejected and that is fine, you still went for it. Other submission might be placed a year(s) later, while a small amount will be placed in a matter of days or months. This is your pipeline.
PSSST… For more on submitting your music, check out my post “10+ Best Places To Submit Music Online To Get Your Music Heard [The Ultimate Guide]”
Many industries use the term “pipeline” to represent an ongoing flow of business opportunities in progress. As a creative, you want to keep your pipeline filled with different projects and opportunities. Doing this, you maximize the odds of your music being placed. You shouldn’t be relying on one situation to come along and change your life. That only happens for a select few and may take years, if ever.
Instead, focus on every opportunity that comes your way. Rather big or small, approach them with your best foot forward. As you keep attaching yourself to various projects, you’ll slowly start to build up momentum and your music portfolio will grow.
As it grows, you’ll start to move up the ladder of success. The caliber of projects you work on and people you work with will become more competitive and high priority. At this point, you can slowly begin to dictate what projects you’re interested in and at a pay rate you’re comfortable with.
That’s right, each level of success comes with its own perks. You’ll stop having to chase every opportunity and can focus on which ones make the most sense. On top of that, the more credible you become the more people will want to work with you. From there, you take full advantage of being the “in demand” songwriter or producer and charge top dollar for all the years you went through being the starving artist.
Reaching this level takes a crazy amount patience and persistence. I say crazy since it damn near takes an obsession to make it. Many songwriters and producers get discouraged by the constant ups and downs of their career and eventually go back to working full-time and making music as a hobby.
Is that what you want? Neither did those that made it.
Wrapping It Up
Long-term success in any industry is difficult but that doesn’t mean impossible. It’s just a matter of implementing the songwriting techniques above, putting in your time and being strategic with your moves. As you venture down your creative path, have fun. Tell people who you are and gain their support by selling yourself and your dream.
Remember, it’s a numbers game. The more opportunities you go for, the better your odds of landing consistent placements and working your way up to your ideal level of success.
WAIT! Here are more songwriting tips for you. Click here to discover how to write an incredible hit chorus.
Guest post: Gerrell “Rellevant” King, is an international platinum-selling music producer and business consultant. Starting his music career working under Black Eyed Peas producers Printz Board and Sleep Deez, Gerrell began building his brand with companies Universal Music Group and Fox Studios as his first major affiliates. While working with various major record labels, music publishers, and artists, Gerrell turned his attention to consulting on creative content and business strategies in the entertainment industry.
(P.S. If you’d like to download the free music submission checklist click here or the image below)