Recently I was watching one of very interviews of Max Martin and they asked him why for the past few years he wasn’t as active as he used to be in late ‘90s and early ‘00s. “Because I needed time to practice and get better.” He replied. Remember, this is MAX MARTIN saying these words. At peak of his career, when he was knowns as the biggest songwriter alive, he felt he need to take some time off and practice to get better. Let alone you and me!
Don’t write just one type or style of song. A great catalogue has an array of subject matter, tempos, emotions, and styles. The goal is to have a song you or your publisher can pitch in every situation. If an artist is looking for an up-tempo party song- you got it covered. If an artist is looking for a message song with deeper lyrics about the state of the world- you got it covered. You see where I’m going with this. It doesn’t happen overnight obviously, it takes time, but this is something you do by design. Respect all genres and all styles and write as many as you can in as many styles as you can. For sure for some writers, certain genres are better and it’s like their “speciality”, and it is great for you if you are one of those writers, but it still would be great for you if you can expand your game.
Write outside yourself. Write a little more about the world around you and a little less about your own small world. You will build a catalogue faster by writing about life around you. For example – you may be struggling with a divorce for two years; if you spend two years writing only about your struggles then you only have songs to pitch to an artist going through a divorce or wanting to sing about it. If you write about life around you, perhaps something you see on the news, something your waitress says at dinner, or something a friend is going through, then you can pitch your songs to all kinds of projects. Literally everything around you is a great topic. Everything. All you have to is to pay attention to what is happening and then find the right angle to look at it. You can still write about what you are going through but why limit yourself?
Co-write. This is extremely helpful in building a catalogue and increasing your chances of success from that catalogue. If you make regular appointments to co-write, you are more likely to write that day. Someone else is expecting you to show up and do your part, so you are less likely to get distracted by other things that are demanding your attention. An extra benefit to co-writing is there are two or three people when the song is completed who are working to get that song recorded and not just you alone. This is part of human nature, when you are doing things alone, you have a good chance of subconsciously postponing it or delaying it, but when you have a commitment to do something, you will get it done when and how you have to get it done. Create that sense of responsibility in yourself by making co-write appointments with your fellow writers, and be committed to your responsibility.
Mix it up. Write a mix of contemporary and classic. A mix of rock and hip-hop. A mix of metal and RnB. I always focus the majority of my time writing on the cutting edge. It’s where the new exciting stuff happens. It’s where I learn the most and explore new directions. It’s what most artists are looking to record. But my publisher will also come to me and say from time to time that so-n-so artist is looking for an old school song or retro feel. I need those too. The simple rule I use is this – if it’s a great idea that needs to be written in a classic style, I will do it. If it’s just an “okay idea” that wants to be written in a retro style I don’t bother.
So here are a few of the basic points I keep in mind each time I am starting to build a new catalogue. I’m about 6,000 plus songs into it – and it’s worked well for me and many of my co-writers!