Four Things Nobody Tells You About Writing Songs for a Living

Four Things Nobody Tells You About Writing Songs for a Living

Wow. It’s been quite a year. And I’m not just talking about the crazy world we seem to live in. I’m talking about the crazy world I personally seem to live in. Twelve months ago, I was packing up my Brooklyn apartment ready to move my stuff back to the UK. Since then, as well as actually moving back to the UK, my book was published, a stage show I’ve been working on for over three years ran for a month near Boston, I flew to China to write for an animation studio out there. And I’m now two days away from visiting my thirtieth country, just in time for my thirtieth birthday later this month. (Probably my proudest achievement of them all.) And when I look back, I’m pretty sure 2017 will be the year I decide I really started writing professionally. Sure, it’s not the first year I ever got paid for what I do. And I’m not sure my writing skills are particularly better than they were a year ago. But 2017 was the year the planets really aligned on a handful of big, grown-up projects I’d been working on for a while. It’s been the year really exciting things have started to happen. So I thought I’d share a thing or two about what those things have taught me.   ‘Pro’ Writing Isn’t That Different From ‘Amateur’ Writing Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets given the key to the Executive Washroom? Like, one moment he’s your everyday nobody and then BAM – it’s velvet curtains and marble toilet seats and string quartets...
A British Guide to Good Manners

A British Guide to Good Manners

I had the privilege of growing up in a family and a country where good manners really matter. I now live in a city and work in an industry where you can’t take them for granted. And I’ve learnt a few things. First and foremost: good manners are by no means essential. The world still turns without them. But the way you handle yourself does count. Here’s the bottom line: like attracts like. If you feel like you always end up working on projects with unreliable, rude and disrespectful people, I have news for you: it might be because you’re as unreliable, rude and disrespectful. We tend to build working relationships with people who are like us. Similar level of experience, more or less. Similar tastes, more or less. And, more or less, a similar way of treating the people around them. So if you want to work in high-stress, high-conflict environments where everyone has their back up because everyone treats each other like shit, be my guest. Some people genuinely believe being an asshole is the only way to get ahead in the creative industries. And I respect their right to believe whatever they like. But if you’d rather work in supportive, relaxed and trusting environments where everyone treats each other so well that you can concentrate 100% on creating something awesome together, that’s an option too. Perhaps you’re also the kind of person who believes that people do their best work when they feel happy, valued and supported. If so, congratulations! I’ve distilled all of my British charm, politeness, charisma into six easy ways you can show the world you’re one...
Art Is Not a Competition

Art Is Not a Competition

If you were planning on finding out how insecure you really are any time soon, I’ve got the perfect tip for you: become a writer. With writing there’s really nowhere to hide. To some greater or lesser degree you’re going to know that’s you there on the page. And you may or may not feel comfortable about that. Building a career as a writer is also tough because it takes a long time. Once you start to build a reputation for being good at what you do so many doors start opening. But until that process begins properly, it can be a bit of a crapshoot. How can you prove what you can do without the right opportunity? But if you have to get the right opportunity before you can prove what you can do, how do you get the opportunity in the first place? It’s not all a Catch-22. Some people get a lucky break. More often, some people make their own lucky break. But this period up to and until that happens is a great time to see how uncertainty and insecurity get to you, and with a bit of luck check yourself before you wreck yourself. So to speak. One of the worst ways insecurity rears its cute little head is jealousy. Your best friend does half the work you do but has just been asked to write something for another awesome band. Someone you sort of know is breaking the Internet with posts on Facebook about their upcoming iTunes album release. Meanwhile, you thought you’d landed an awesome gig but the venue just got shut...
The Secret to Good Networking

The Secret to Good Networking

Today’s article is brought to you by a warm smile, a love of your fellow artist, and our industry’s favorite N-word: Networking. Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re the most skilled artist around. Let’s suppose your work has the power to capture the hearts and souls of everyone it touches. Let’s even imagine your contribution to your art form is nothing short of mind-blowing. But let’s suppose no one has ever heard of you. Not a good combination. That’s where the N-word comes in. Art is a team game. People get scared when they hear the dirty little word ‘Networking’. It sounds clinical. It sounds formal. It sounds like hard bloody work. It brings up images of corporate schmooze-a-thons where people with no soul unashamedly promote themselves and their work to more influential people with even less soul. But Networking isn’t something to fear. It doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, Networking is just a dirty little word used to describe something that’s actually quite exciting. When it’s done properly, it’s supposed to be a thing people who’ve devoted their lives to something do because they like to engage with other people who’ve also devoted their life to that same something. It’s supposed to be a meeting of like minds, an opportunity for people to connect with people who might be like they are. Nor is Networking something that has to happen at ‘Networking Events’ at a particular time in a particular place. It’s something that happens when a friend introduces you to a friend at a party. Or when you engage with an artist after a gig. Or when...
The Importance of Well-Produced Demos

The Importance of Well-Produced Demos

There are a lot of people writing high-quality songs these days. Some producers, performers and record companies’ A&R (Artists and Repertoire) people find themselves trawling through hundreds of demos a month to find the next big artist they want to work with. With your demos you have maybe thirty seconds to capture the attention of these key industry decision makers. Look at it from their perspective: they have a mountain of material they have to get through by 5pm. They’re going to be making snap decisions and anything that could be a little red flag that says ‘not professional’ is a simple way for them to add one more ‘no’ and get one closer to the bottom of the pile. That’s why the quality of your songs matters in every respect. Some writers are at a stage in their careers where they can afford a pro home-setup and they have a ton of top-quality performer contacts – good for them. But, if that’s not you, it’s definitely worth considering getting a music production company to take care of your production needs. Here are some reasons why:   Professional-quality demos have become the norm It’s nice to think a great song will shine through even a shoddy demo. And that probably was true back when quick demos we’re thrown together in one take on cassette. As technology has progressed, the key industry players looking at your material started hearing better and better quality demos. They’re just not used to using their imagination to compensate for amateur recordings anymore. You’re putting yourself at a major disadvantage if your music sounds anything...
Seven Simple Steps to Songwriting Success

Seven Simple Steps to Songwriting Success

If you’re like many people today, you might like to think anything can be done in just a few, easy, Google-able steps. And you wouldn’t be totally wrong: there’s a quickest, most efficient route to accomplishing anything. But you’re barking up the wrong tree if you think you can accomplish anything worthwhile just like that. Building a songwriting career included. In our usual style of no-bullshit tough-love, here’s The Song Foundry’s patented seven steps to getting there, all in good time.   1. Face reality Once again: there is no shortcut to achieving anything truly worthwhile. No one became an award-winning, hit-spinning songwriter overnight. These steps are simple but not easy. They take years of dedication, perseverance and self-belief to put into effect. No one is exempted from that. Let’s get a reality check: if you’re looking for shortcuts you’re in the wrong profession.   2. Lose any and all sense of entitlement Building a career as an artist is one of the most challenging things you can do (see Step 1). There is no correlation between talent, fame, notoriety and income. Art imitates life: life is unfair; art isn’t any better. Still, there is nothing to be gained by telling yourself you’re owed or entitled to anything. Period. It creates a needy self-limiting victim mentality which undermines your ability to do positive things that keep you moving forward. People can sense entitlement and, even if it’s justified, it’s not a quality that endears you to others. Fight it at all costs. You need to build good relationships with people (see Step 5) and self-entitlement isn’t going to help you do that. Replace any sense of...