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Is Songwriting Still A Profession? The music business has changed a lot over the years, but none of the changes have affected anyone more than the songwriters. As someone who has made an amazing living writing songs for the last 15 years, I had to address the elephant in the room. Yes, songwriting is still a viable profession, however, there are new rules to apply to your career in order to give yourself the opportunity to succeed as a songwriter.
There used to be a great marriage between songwriters and artists, labels and publishers. Writers wrote the songs and artists sang them. This marriage was very profitable for many years, but like many marriages, the honeymoon is over, as is the union.
With sales declining, labels are now turning their artists into songwriters to capitalize on lost sales revenue that comes from physical and digital sales. The 360 deal is in full effect. When an artist signs a 360 deal, they are sharing a portion of their publishing, touring, merchandise and endorsement revenue with the record label in exchange for the label's investment in their career. The labels recognize that having their artists write the songs or at least be in the room when the song is written brings more money back to the label. The process is as simple as understanding return on investment.
As a songwriter, it's frustrating, but understandable. The labels are spending millions of dollars to launch the artists' careers, and it's only fair that they make their money back plus some.
The publishers, on the other hand, trying to find a way to deal with the lost revenue of getting cuts on artists' records, are now turning their writers into artists. Publishers have realized that in order to recoupe their investment in their writers, they must sign songwriters who have artist potential so that the artist can serve as the vehicle for the songs and copyrights owned by the publishing company.
Both labels and publishers alike are creating small circles within their own walls to ensure mutual success. Getting inside one of those circles as an outsider is almost and likely impossible. However, the new model they are creating on a larger scale can and should be implemented by songwriters on a smaller scale as soon as possible.
If you want to succeed as a songwriter in the future, you need to do one of two things immediately.
You may have never thought of yourself as an artist, but you had better start. Publishers and labels are both looking for writers that are capable of being artists. Stop wasting time trying to write songs for someone else, write them for yourself. Not only do you have a better chance of them being heard, but if your goal is to get a publishing deal or a record deal, you are going to have to serve as the vehicle for your own songs.
2. Create Circles of Your Own To Find Vehicles For Your Songs
Reach out to artists in your local area and collaborate. Stop thinking that Keith Urban is the vehicle for your song, he's not and never will be, but, investing early in artists that have a future in the business will prove profitable. Take the example of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. This is the perfect example of a songwriter finding a vehicle for his songs. Elton is an artist, Bernie is a writer. They each serve as each others vehicles. They found each other early in their careers, before success, and most importantly, stuck together after success.
The days of songwriters just writing songs are over. The sooner you realize that the sooner you can adapt to the new way the music business is being conducted. You are responsible for finding a vehicle for your songs. If you aren't comfortable being that vehicle, then start looking at arm's length for someone that is, or start creating circles comprising of other writers and artists that can serve each other.
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