If you want to be a good songwriter, I’ve got a really good piece of advice for you. Listen way more than you talk. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s a multi-layered idea, but I will share it with you.
First, I want you to grasp a really important fact. I am in a massive community of songwriters, numbering well into the thousands, and after varying degrees of career success, virtually none of them still play the first songs they ever wrote. Why does that matter? It gives some perspective that professional songwriters have always used their early composing experiences for growth and development and that with continued writing practice, they got better and better. That should not only motivate you that work and practice will give eventual results, but also awaken you to the fact that you may be falling too much in love with your own early writing.
It’s really important for me to share this powerful observation with you. Whenever I attend song evaluation events, at songwriting workshops, song pitches, songwriting guild meetings, master classes, either as an evaluator or an observer, I tend to see the same thing over and over again. The moderators and panel members at these events usually have incredibly insightful things to say about the songs that they review; the same sorts of things that I tend to tell students about their songs when I’m asked to evaluate them. If each songwriter who submitted a song were to carefully listen to the feedback they are receiving, they could almost instantaneously accelerate their songwriting development. They are given numerous golden recommendations of things that they could do to make their songs better, hookier, more commercial or sellable.
Unfortunately, what I observe is songwriters being defensive, not listening to the critiques and therefore not benefitting from the feedback. What it looks like to me is that the writers came to the event only to garner praise and acceptance and only care about positive comments. They appear unwilling to listen to the kind of constructive commentary that could catapult their songwriting career. This also applies to submissions to organizations such as Taxi, where the songwriter’s intention is song placement and if they don’t get their song placed, they ignore anything else. I would propose that the most valuable part of the equation in a song submission to Taxi is the song evaluation report. Most of the individuals working at Taxi have A & R experience and they work really hard to give meaningful suggestions about the song and how it could be improved, so listen to them and attempt to implement some of the changes they suggest.
Most importantly, take off your promotion hat and listen. If your song is good, you won’t have to sell it so hard. And if it’s not, why not take advantage of all the free commentary designed to help you improve as a songwriter. Whether you know it or not, it’s a quite common event for a label to require you to submit some of your songs to a song fixer, or to co-write with your producer, or to go back to the drawing board and write more until you write some songs that the A & R department likes. Many star artists have been through that process, why should it be any different for you.
Songwriters are often grown more from the rejection slips they receive than the praise. It’s all in knowing how to listen and tastefully apply the best suggestions to your writing. Be receptive to the feedback you receive and you’ll grow as a songwriter even faster than you can imagine.