Songwriters – Are You Too Self-Centred?

For the umpteenth time this week, I received a “hello” from a songwriter on a popular music-sharing website I have a page on.  It’s nice that people say hello, but I know what they’re really saying.  Usually it is a disguised request for a critique.  “Come and listen to my songs” or “I sure would like to know what you think of my music” is what they really mean.  Sometimes they come right out and ask;  well, at least that’s honest!

Songwriting Class
Image by Shazari via Flickr

Part of being a songwriter is connecting to others and getting feedback, as well as getting advice on what to do with your songs.  But you are already somewhat self-involved simply by BEING a songwriter (I mean, who else do you write about except yourself or someone you’re infatuated with?? 🙂 )  so there comes a time when you have to not only step away from yourself, but do a little bit to help others along their path.  So consider the following etiquette:

1. Don’t Be A Spammer – when you sign up to a place like Soundclick or MySpace, don’t spam everyone else on those websites with a “listen to my new song!!” message.  Seriously, doesn’t it suck to get spam like that from others?  And when you do, do you go off and listen to their songs immediately and with wild enthusiasm?  Okay, maybe some of you diehards do 🙂 .  But think about how YOU would feel if someone made you feel obligated to listen to their music all the time.  You’d probably feel like they were pretty full of themselves!  Isn’t it nicer to discover other people’s music on your own?

2. Don’t Be Offended – if somebody doesn’t like your song, get over it!  This is a big world and it’s utterly impossible to please all of the people all of the time.  Do you like every song you hear?  Of course not.  Which leads me to my next thought…

3. Take a Step Away – when you are too close to your songs, you can’t possibly be objective enough to fix what ails them, let alone listen with any objectivity to feedback you receive about them.  If you find it difficult to remove yourself, then don’t make every song you write all about you!  Mix it up a bit, make some of it fictitious.  I’ve given this advice before in other articles, but it can’t be said often enough…it’s only about you when you’re in the bedroom by yourself writing it, once you take it out the door, it’s about everybody else.  Think about that.

4. Take The Time To Listen To Your Peers – join songwriting circles, open mic nights, anything that exposes you to other songwriters. You’ll learn a lot from them, including what NOT to do. Listen to their songs and give them feedback. This also goes for online songwriting websites where you can post your songs to be critiqued. If you post a song, then critique two others. Make it a habit. And of course, critiquing is a great way to learn, so what can you lose?

5. Be Polite – the songwriters who get the most exposure, the most connections and establish strong relationships with people in the business are those who know how to be nice. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Be polite and thank anyone who gives you advice, directions, suggestions. They’ll remember that.

I used to critique songs years ago. It took a lot of time and sometimes it was the last thing I wanted to do at the end of a long day, but if somebody asked, I critiqued. I finally stopped one day when I got a nasty response to one of my critiques. Imagine that…I took the time to give a detailed response to somebody’s song and they blasted me for it!

That’s a self-centred songwriter. Don’t be like him!


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  1. Thanks for taking the time to share this with us IJ.

    With so many people surrounding us every day with their own stories it’s just natural to pull from what I see. Some is fictional.

    I tend to go into more detail about them then I, me, my. I know my life. I guess I’m more interested in theirs.

    Also, I rewrite all the time. How many people do you know that write the perfect song the first time, every time. Not this guy. Picking songs apart and rewriting some lines/notes is what makes this interesting. There is always 101 different ways to write a line. Why not try a few.

    I agree, there has to be better ways for artists to present their music without spamming. Use some of that creativity.

    I have no problem with feedback but to all article writers reading…when printing your opinions for everyone to see tell us why you feel the way you do. Don’t just say it sounds great or you don’t like it. You’re a writer. Give some detail. What exactly do you like or dislike? The reader only has you to go off of.

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