There is no cut-and-dried way of becoming a professional songwriter, however, here is a guide to follow on how best to become a professional songwriter.
Unlike other professions, whether creative or otherwise, there is usually a set trajectory for aspirants to follow when they are looking to forge their own successful career within that specific industry. One industry that does not have this trajectory, despite being in existence for decades, is songwriting.
Therefore, in this regard, the article cannot provide a template to follow if you are looking to become a professional songwriter. But what it can share is a guide on how to become a paid songwriter eventually, if you put in the work.
Why is songwriting as a profession not clear cut?
When you think about other professions outside of songwriting, there is some kind of trajectory that people within that industry follow. Be it in the creative industry like dance, music or art, or formalised industries.
However, in regard to songwriters, their journey to prominence and success is determined by their individual journey, which highlights that to become a professional songwriter does not have a template. However, it does require the aspiring songwriter to have the knowledge and skill to execute when the opportunity arises.
How to become a professional songwriter
The key to being a professional songwriter is understanding what kind of songwriter you want to be. While there are people who compose and write lyrics, most songwriters decide on a discipline within the overall profession. Therefore, there are lyricists who write the words to a song. There are also composers, who are responsible for writing the melodies, progression and rhythm of a song.
While it is important to understand both disciplines, it is useful to at least play one instrument as a songwriter. Considering that songwriting is considered a collaborative effort, you will need to choose which of the two disciplines best suit you in order to work on honing the skill. So that when the opportunity arises, you have a canon of work that showcases your abilities.
Also, getting a publisher or publishing deal is considered a shortcut to success. That being said, not having one does not mean that success is not possible, it will just require more hard work.
If you want to become a professional songwriter, it is important to always have a demo of the music that you are working on currently. Considering that this is your desired profession, you should be continually working on new music.
Therefore, always create and share demos with new music. This firstly shows that you are continually honing your skills as a songwriter.
While your efforts might not initially be recognised by artists, it might get you a deal with a publisher. Getting a deal with a publisher would remove the additional pressure of having to work and try to sell your compositions yourself.
Partner with signed writers
In order to get recognised by the industry insiders, it is important to affiliate yourself with people that are already in the industry. The same goes when it comes to venturing into professional songwriting. If possible, work with already established or signed professional songwriters.
This firstly gives you insight into the inner workings of the industry. Secondly, it gives you a track record of working with other songwriters.
Most importantly, you should note that at this time, making money should not be your focus. It should rather be on increasing your track record and proving that you can work with songwriters in the industry.
Diversifying yourself in other related industries
As a songwriter, you might make the bulk of your income from session work. However, during the quiet times, it might be beneficial to consider working in other aspects of the music industry.
Whether as a music or vocal producer, a session artist, instrumentalist or recording engineer. This ensures that you are continually working, building your network and contact base, and constantly kept in mind for potential references.
It also highlights your versatility and deep knowledge of music, if you can do more within the discipline.
If you are thinking about becoming a professional songwriter, it is important to note that there is no fixed template to becoming successful in this chosen career path. The road to success has been as varied as the successful professional songwriters you can think of.
Therefore, there is no template to becoming a professional songwriter. There are, however, principles you can follow, which would ensure when the opportunity is made available, you can meet them. This includes continually updating your demo of music, honing your skill, working with other songwriters (established), and diversifying yourself and skills within the music industry.