Independent Songwriter 101: Amazing Tips for Success

Step by Step Tips on How to Succeed as an Independent Songwriter

Learn amazing tips and step by step guidance on how to become an
successful independent songwriter

As an independent songwriter you’re an artist too. You’re not someone who just writes for other artists or write lyrics for a singer to sing. As a mainstream or independent songwriter you have a brand and career you have to build. A lot of indie songwriters make the mistake of thinking branding and building is only for singers. However, nothing can be more further from the truth. In this day and time to make it as an independent songwriter you absolutely have to build a brand and audience. If you’re wondering how to become a songwriter for other artists in this day and age, building your own audience first is a great start. It’s the only way you’ll make it. It’s the only way you’ll finally get your song in the right persons’ had to have a recording artist sing it. Here are 8 amazing tips on how to succeed as an independent songwriter.

Understanding the new music business as an independent songwriter

Social media marketing and the internet is the new A&R department for independent songwriters and aspiring artists

The reality is the music business isn’t the way it use to be. It changed drastically and it changed pretty fast. Getting discovered the old-fashioned way is now a once in a lifetime type of opportunity. To get discovered an an independent songwriter or any type of artists, you have to understand how the new music industry works. One of the first steps to succeeding at anything is to understand it. Here’s a step by step guide on how the new music business run for independent songwriters trying to make it:

  • Internet and Social Media – we now live in a full blown day and time of internet and social media. No matter how “old school” or “traditional” you may be it’s a reality. Social media and the internet is the new A&R department. Instead of trying to contact record labels or artists managers, social media is the new way to make connections. Social media and the internet is also the platform to build a name for yourself. You no longer find labels, A&R and managers, they find you.
  • No more artist development – understand that there’s no more artist development. If you present anything to an industry executive they expect the full package. They don’t want to have invest in you. This means to succeed as a singer, songwriter, rapper, etc. you have to be a full package already. This means while you’re building your brand and audience you should also be developing yourself.
  • No longer accepting demos – you may find a few A&R executives that will let you submit a demo if you get in touch with him or her. However, the day and age where you put together a demo, then send it off for an industry exec to hear and hope they’ll get back to you are gone for the most part. People no longer send demos. Whatever platform you put your music on whether SoundcloudYouTubeFacebook, etc is now how you submit your demo. The key is to get it enough views and buzz where you attract the A&R or executive you want.

Understanding these top 3 factors on how different the music business is now will definitely help you succeed as an independent songwriter. It’ll help you get out of doing things the outdated way.

Building your own audience

If you an independent songwriter and looking for songwriter promotion or buzz you have to build it for yourself. You have to build your own audience and brand. Remember this is the new age of the music business. You can’t walk into a record label building and wow someone with your future #1 hit you’ve just written. In order to succeed as an indie songwriter you have to create a buzz for yourself. The best way to accomplish this is to utilize the popularity of the internet and social media. This means creating a social media page for yourself. You can create a personal page for yourself and an artist page. Or you can have just one page where you promote yourself as a songwriter/artist. The top social media pages you should definitely have if you’re an independent songwriter are FacebookTwitter and Instagram. You should also create a SoundCloud page to post your songs. Although you’re only the songwriter you should still have demo versions of the songs you want to submit to singers. These demos should be posted on your SoundCloud page. You should also create a YouTube channel and post your song demos there as well. Creating these pages and utilizing these platforms are just the beginning to building your brand. Once you have these pages be sure to use them effectively by:

As an independent songwriter utilizing SoundCloud is one of the best ways to build your audience.
  • using popular music related hashtags
  • sharing, retweeting and reposting music related posts
  • following A&R executives, music producers, artists you intend to work with etc.
  • not being a “social media snob”  meaning don’t think you’re too good to follow people back or too good to support other artists, you would want fellow inspiring indie artists to support you.
  • attending songwriter, music related seminars and events. Attending one of ASCAP annually “I create music” expo is a great example of an event to attend as an independent songwriter that will help you connect with artists.

Don’t wait on your big break

The reality is a lot of aspiring artists are still waiting on their big break. This applies to singers, rappers, producers and songwriters as well. They’re still waiting on that cinderella story to happen, the infamous rags to riches overnight sensation to occur. The reality is the chances of that happening nowadays is slim to none. I don’t say that to discourage anyone. I say that so you can understand as independent songwriter or aspiring artist how to maneuver around this reality. Since the music business is no longer discovering talent and giving big breaks you have to create your own opportunities. If you’re wondering how to submit a song to an artist under these new circumstances the internet is your best friend. You have to build your brand, your fan base. Even if it’s a small fan base. As you’re creating a buzz you have to establish relationships. The closest you’ll come to getting your “big break” is establishing a relationship with an already official A&R executive, artist manager or sought after producer. Once you have a solid relationship with them you can personally hand your demo over to them. You can say I have this amazing song I wrote for “whoever the artist is you want to sing your song.” However, don’t sit around and wait for a scenario like this to happen. Work hard day and night to build your brand and make your own “big break” happen.

Stop begging for support

Stop begging for people to support you. Be your own support system.

As an independent songwriter or any type of independent artist naturally you would want to support. Actually you’ll need support. It’s understandable. Whenever you’re building anything from the ground up you need support. However, a lot of indie artists get so caught up in trying to round up support that they sabotage themselves. Don’t sit around waiting for people to support you. Don’t beg for support. Literally start where you are with what you have and as you’re building your brand support will come. The reality is the ones closest to you won’t be your supporters. Your biggest supporters will be absolutely strangers. The thing is you have to be ok with that. Don’t be crushed that family, friends and those who knew you the longest aren’t supporting you. It’s something most artist and even entrepreneurs deal with. Forget who’s supporting you or against you. Develop tunnel vision and focus on achieving your goals and accomplishing your dreams.

Only work with those that are assets

A lot of times as an inspiring artist we tend to waste time. The biggest way we waste time is by working with or affiliating ourselves with liabilities not assets.  As an independent songwriter you have to know when you’re making an investment and when someone is an asset to you. The best way you’ll see if you’re working with an asset versus a liability is if the relationship is one-sided. If you’re an independent songwriter trying to build your catalog and you’re working with a producer but the relationship is only one-sided meaning the producer is the only one benefiting then more than likely they’re a liability. If you’re working with a recording artist who you want to demo your songs or be the official artist to sing your songs, once again if they’re the only one benefiting from the relationship they’re not an asset. An asset is when both parties benefit off the relationship. It’s when you have something to gain from the relationship as well as the other party involved.

Be your own driving force

The most successful artists, entertainers of all time had a driving force behind them. For example Joe Jackson was the driving force behind the entire Jackson family. He groomed the Jackson 5 for success and Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson for solo success, worldwide superstardom. Other successful artists who had driving forces behind them are Brandy NorwoodBeyonceDestiny’s ChildAshanti, etc. They had someone, a parent who was their manager grooming them night and day for success. We all would love to have that type of support and leadership guiding our career. However, you may have to be your own driving force. If you’re an independent songwriter trying to get your song picked up by the right artist to make it an international hit you need some type of force driving you. If you’re not fortunate enough to have a manager working with you night and day become your own groomer, become your own driving force. Be extra hard on yourself. Set deadlines and challenges for yourself. Push yourself until you’re polished and impressive.  Imagine you have a Joe Jackson or Sonja Norwood driving you. Trust me it works.

Picture of Joe Jackson centered with his sons, members of the Jackson 5 including sixth brother Randy Jackson. Joe Jackson was the father, manager and driving force behind the musical family’s success

Define yourself as an independent songwriter

Before you figure out how to submit music to an A&R executive. Before you jump the gun and sign a publishing deal for songwriters and run to music publishing companies for help define yourself as an independent songwriter. Remember you’re building a brand. When building any brand you have to know who your target audience is, what it is you’re selling and what is your ultimate goal. As an indie songwriter all of these questions need to be answered. Remember you are an artist in your own right. This means you too need a brand, vision and goal. You can’t just sporadically write songs and go around trying to pitch your songs to various artists. You need a system, a plan.

  • Determine what type of songwriter you want to be. Do you want to write R&B music, pop, hip hop or do you want to write for all genres of music.
  • Who exactly are your audience? Are you trying to appeal to the young crowd? Are you writing music for older, mature artists? Do you want to write for new, up and coming artists? Or do you want to write for legendary, already established artists who are still performing such as Janet Jackson and Toni Braxton?
  • What type of look and style do you want for yourself? Do you want to keep a low profile? Do you want to be more of a popular, glamorous songwriter, etc?

Ignoring haters

This tip may sound cliche but it’s so true. Ignoring haters is one of the biggest tasks you’ll have to do to make it as a songwriter. With any dream, goal or profession you pursue you’re going to have haters. The bigger the dream, the harder the work but also the heavier the haters will be. In everyday life you have to deal with haters. So imagine trying to do something major like sell songs to mainstream artists or create a mega-hit. The amount of haters will multiply by the minute. The key is to not focus on them. Focus on yourself and your goals. You literally have to zone them out and know in your heart it’s just jealousy. This applies to strangers and sadly people close to you. That’s the hard part when someone close to you is “hating.” The sad reality is you have to ignore them as well. No matter how hard it is. When facing haters keep these quotes in mind:

  • “Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winning.”
  • “When you give up on yourself you’re letting your haters win because they love to see you down.”
  • “Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you.”
  • “Haters will see you walk on water and say it’s because you can’t swim.”
Ignoring haters is one of the most important things you’ll have to master when pursuing your dreams as an independent songwriter

These tips on how to succeed as an independent songwriter is only the beginning. You have to apply these steps and so much more day in and day out. Remember no one is coming to save you and handing you your big break on a platter. You are in charge of your career and making sure that mega-hit you wrote gets heard by the world.

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