3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Writing Songs for Others
A successful songwriter in the UK, MIKEY GORMLEY has experienced a number of ups and downs in his young career. He shares three valuable lessons that every songwriter should know before working professionally with other artists.
There are certain things that you simply cannot learn through studying, but here are some of my key tips for finding success as a songwriter.
1. Focus on your Music
Improve the quality of your output first and foremost, ensuring your songs are the best they can be. This will lead to cuts that attract the attention of better managers, artists and publishers, which will, in turn, increase your chances of finding the right team for you. This is the ONLY aspect you have control over, as the artist’s team will decide which songs get released as well as the campaign surrounding them. The better you are at your craft, the higher the chance you will accumulate cuts over time.
2. Find the Right Team for You
Do not be afraid to hustle alone for a while. In my experience, great things can happen when you reach out to artists, managers and producers directly to sort sessions. If you are good at what you do, as well as proactive and driven, the right management team will find you.
Typically, a songwriter’s team consists of legal support, management, and a publisher.
LEGAL: Usually, your lawyer is the first to come on board and plays a key role in introducing you to managers and A&Rs at record labels and publishing companies. Your lawyer helps negotiate contracts, such as management or publishing deals, and ensures they are fair and up to industry standard. It is important to mention, they must specialize in music, since they need to have connections in the industry and the knowledge to negotiate such deals.
MANAGEMENT: In my experience, finding the right management team is more challenging. I have been writing in the industry now for three years and in that time have had two situations that did not work out. It’s only more recently that I have found the team that suits me. Try to choose someone well connected and driven, with endless belief in your ability as a songwriter. Your manager will help book you in writing sessions with up-and-coming artists to begin and more established artists later down the line.
The ideal management team will open doors that you can’t alone and will communicate with you openly and honestly to help you grow as a songwriter. Most managers take 20 percent of your total income from songwriting and operate with a trial period at the beginning of your working relationship (between 3-6 months), which allows both parties to figure out if they’d like to continue working together. It is important to remember that this is a collaboration and if for whatever reason you feel it isn’t working, do not feel pressured to continue the relationship. You must find a team that helps elevate what you do!
PUBLISHING: Finally, having a publisher on board can enhance your team in a big way. I do need to stress that finding a publishing deal should not be your goal (as it will come as a result of the success of your songs, so focus on that first.) There are two reasons to sign a deal:
1. Money: You will only be signed for substantial money once you have written a successful song that is bringing in revenue. Some choose to sign deals for a smaller amount to support themselves early on, however, I would suggest finding another outlet to earn money. For example, performing covers in bars, restaurants or at weddings, which can pay really well for short bursts of time. You can also build your songwriting royalties in tandem, so you have two sources of income until you write the song (or songs) that secures a big advance in your publishing deal.
2. Your A&R. Having someone at a publishing company who seeks opportunities for you on a regular basis, organizes sessions, finds sync deals and pitches songs is extremely valuable when trying to advance your career. I would be more inclined to sign for this reason, since over the long-term it could put you in a much stronger position as a songwriter and lead to bigger sessions. However, the A&R who signed you could leave or be let go at any moment, and deals tend to last over three years, so it is important to consider that before signing your royalties away.
3. Knock Down Doors
It’s great to have a solid support system, but you have to work together with your team, rather than expecting them to do the work for you. No matter who you have on your team, you are the most invested in your project and should work the hardest as a result. During my graduation ceremony at LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts), we were given one key piece of advice: “The squeaky wheel gets the oil,” which I have since adopted as a personal motto. so remember:
"Create Opportunities for Yourself"
One final note: It is important to point out that despite all the tips, planning and preparation, making your own mistakes is important, since it will help you to establish your own do's and don'ts going forward. Things will go wrong, you will face rejection – almost daily – and you might make some poor decisions along the way. But that’s ok.
The critical factor in finding success as a songwriter is not only dependent on talent, but also perseverance. If you are talented, personable and consistent, opportunities will happen – you just have to be ready when they come your way!