How to Successfully Kick off your Career as a Singer/Songwriter

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Have you recently decided that you want to pursue your passion for music, but have no idea where to start? Even if your end goal is to sign with a major music label, I think you still need to apply these steps. Just know that in the current climate of the music industry, thanks to the internet, you are no longer dependent on music labels to make a career in music, especially the majors. You have the freedom to do it yourself.

If you have chosen to become a professional singer or songwriter, congrats for choosing one of the most difficult professions. But that’s not a problem if you are determined and are willing to work.

So, let’s get started. First of all, let’s talk about the profession “SINGER/SONGWRITER”. Then some ideas including some tips and steps which I hope will help you.

WHO IS A SINGER/SONGWRITER ?

Most singer/songwriter records have a similar sound, which is usually spare, direct, and reflective, which places the emphasis on the song itself. James Taylor, Jackson Browne, and Joni Mitchell were the quintessential singers/songwriters of the ’70s, and most of the songwriters that followed them based themselves on their styles.

According to me, what we believe affects how we think which affects our behaviors and how we act which affects our results. [ Beliefs — Thinking — Behaviors — Actions — Results ]. I’ve heard music industry people say ‘it’s really difficult to make it in the music business’ and conversely I’ve also heard other music industry people say ‘there’s never been a better time to have a career as an artist’. 

So if you really want to accomplish your dreams of becoming a singer or a songwriter, START BELIEVING that you can. This is the first and the most important step. 

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Let’s talk about the elements that you would require to start your career.

1. Good singing voice

You really need to have a good singing voice if you have to become a singer. So if you are one of them, you are really very lucky. Even if you are not, no need to worry because you can improve your voice by practice as many of the greatest singers did.

2. Basic recording equipment 

You gotta have the basic recording gear which is available with ease. These include a budget laptop, recording mic and a software to edit your creations. Yes, that’s all you require to start to record stuff.

3. Basic music theory

You have to learn this; it’s one of the most essential things needed. You can learn from various sources like you can surf the internet or you can learn from the Youtube. It’s entirely up to you.

4. An instrument

Learning to play a musical instrument has so many benefits – whether it’s building your confidence, enhancing your memory or widening your social circle. Playing and succeeding at a musical instrument gives you a huge sense of pride and achievement, especially when you manage to perfect a passage you’ve been struggling with for weeks. It also helps to write better songs and provides some insight in the song development. 

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5. Social media accounts 

Social media for singers has become one of the most significant platforms for self-promotion. It’s important to use them wisely. Produce great content and you’ll spread the word about yourself as a musician far and wide. Social media is vital for promoting yourself, engaging with your fans and creating a brand.

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Now as that you have the essentials, let’s get started. Here are some steps for you that I believe are the basic stepping stones for your career.

1. FIND YOUR INSPIRATION

Look into your own life, your surroundings, and people that you look up to in order to find your muse for writing lyrics. Find a subject you are passionate about. If you like country music, learn about Hank Williams; if its pop, study Elvis. Study hit songs to understand how they are constructed.

2. WRITE YOUR IDEAS DOWN

Once you have found your inspiration, keep some sort of journal. You never know when lyrics may come to you — you could be on the subway, at a park, or in school, and you don’t want to forget what comes to you! If you keep singing a chorus or melody line over and over your head, record it as soon as you can, so that you don’t lose it!

3. KNOW YOUR GOALS

You may know that you want to “make it” in the music industry, but what exactly does making it look like? Focus on short-term goals first. 

If you’re a musician who has never played a show before, maybe getting an opening slot at a local show within the next three months is your first objective.If you would like to start a label, choosing a name and doing the paperwork required to start a business within the next six weeks is a good first step. 

4. CRAFT YOUR SONG

Most successful songs have 2-3 verses and 2-3 choruses. What do you want people to feel and think when they hear your songs? While there is no absolute right way to write a song, many people start out with writing meaningful lyrics, and then putting chords or melody to the words.

5. TEST YOUR SONGS

So, you think you have your song completed and ready to put out there? I suggest performing your song live — at an open mic or a talent show — to get all the kinks out, and to see how an audience reacts to it. Or you may want to start out simple by playing it for your friends and family, since performing original material in front of a live audience can be nerve-wracking!

6. ESTABLISH YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE

If you come off as amateurish, people can subconsciously associate you with lower quality and someone not worthy of attention. This is why having good quality visual components (photos, graphics, videos) is key to a strong online presence.

When starting out, invest in a professional photographer to get high-quality photos of yourself, or band, that you use for your bio, website and social media. Make sure to communicate with them and plan out how the specific shots are going to be used ahead of time.

7. RECORD YOUR CREATIONS

Now it’s time to record your songs! With technology today, it’s easy to record your own songs with the right computer software and a decent quality microphone.

8. BUILD LEVERAGE

Sometimes it can take that one popular tastemaker, blogger or influencer to get you the publicity and exposure you need to get your career going. They have a large audience and can get your name out there to accelerate the growth of your fan base. For most artists, a random request to these individuals asking for promotion will often get ignored. So how do you get their attention? Think about what’s in it for them. How does talking about you or promoting your music benefit them?

9. COLLABORATE WITH OTHERS

It’s fun to collaborate and write with other musicians! Sometimes writing lyrics may be your strongest skill, while it may be a weak point for someone else who is better at writing the instrumental part. Many famous singers collaborate in this way.

By collaborating with others, you may find someone that truly understands your music perspective and where you want to take your music, which can be an important asset for you in your career as a singer-songwriter.

10. PITCH YOUR MUSIC

Once you are confident in your original song, it’s time to pitch your music to the industry! This is not easy and won’t happen overnight, but with technology today, you do have an advantage of getting your music heard and seen by important music industry professionals.

One way is by submitting your music online to a music catalog. Many TV shows and commercial companies will look through these production libraries to find songs for their needs, and yours could be exactly what they are looking for!

Everyone has a different journey and different conditions, but these are some basic steps which I hope will be of some help to you. Keep dreaming and keep working on your dreams; you’ll get there eventually.