Write a lot of songs. Even though this number is daunting to some people, I recommend waiting until you have 30 songs that you believe are competitive and commercial before you even start playing your songs for people or even to mention to anyone that you do write songs. For most of us, that’s going to mean writing 100 or more songs. For aspiring writers, a ratio of 1 great song out of every 10 written is a pretty high bar and when you have at least 30 songs that you’re confident with, means you potentially have a minimum of 3 songs for people – specially professionals – to like. When you start playing your songs for people before you have a handful catalogue, if they like any of your songs and ask for more, you have nothing to provide and that can bring a very bad image for you. Be prepared, by writing as many great songs as you can.
While you are working on your 30 great songs, you can start to lay some groundwork for the business side of things by networking. Getting to know as many people as you can in the business is always a good idea. You don’t need to brag to everybody about your “songwriting” because still might not have a very colorful catalogue of songs to provide if they ask for more, but on the other hand if you are able, co-write, go to shows, hang out with other writers or writing groups in your area. Every person you get to know could be the one that helps you launch your career. When you have a mini catalogue of at least 30 songs, means you have something in hand and guess what? You already have some connections and you can start showing your songs to people and pitch for any opportunities you’d come across.
After you have 30 great songs, you can start moving forward and playing your songs for people. Start with your PRO if you have signed up with one. If you haven’t, then meet with all PROs in your country and find out information about which one you want to register with. This is an important step for a songwriter to be signed to the right PRO. They are going to be the ones taking care of your rights and pay your royalty cheques. Finding a supporter at a PRO can be one of the best things you ever do. Be businesslike, kind and respectful when you meet with them. Play them your best 3-4 songs. If they ask for more, you can play some more from your list of 30.
Then, start meeting with publishers and song pluggers. Both are going to want you to have around 30 great songs before they are interested anyway. Before your mini catalogue is ready, don’t even bother to chase after them because most probably it will turn to be a waste of time for both of you and the publisher or the song plugger. And if you waste their time, you will be in their “blacklist” of people who have wasted their time, and you basically had killed your potential career even before you start anything! Again, be businesslike, kind and respectful. Thank everyone for giving you their time, even if they pass on you and your songs. Realize that it’s probably going to take a while to build relationships before you are offered some sort of “deal” with a publisher or a plugger. They might hear your songs and reject them. It’s a very normal thing in this business. Just politely ask them for the reason of the rejection and work on what they will tell you. If they see any potential in your songs, they will spend time to explain for you why you got rejected and how you can improve your work before you go back to them again. Never take it personally. These are professionals and all they think about is the business aspects of the music industry.
Meanwhile, keep writing. Your goal should be to beat out ten of your 30 songs in the chart of “top ten” songs. Dig hard for great ideas. Challenge yourself. Don’t settle for something that works. Find something that is amazing. While you are doing all the work I mentioned above, don’t stop on writing more. It now is 18 years I am writing songs and at least for the past 10 years I cannot remember a single day that I didn’t write a song. Sometimes they are the worst songs in the history, but I still wrote what I wanted to write for that day. And this fact of constantly writing is what made me feel I am successful at this moment in the business. Because I am always constantly growing my catalogue with a daily attempt of writing better songs.
Hangi Tavakoli is our in-house established and professional music producer with 20 years of experience in songwriting, music production, mix and mastering. He has written and produced more than 5,000 published songs to-date, including some major hits in international scale.