It happens almost every day that I get an email, private message, Facebook, etc. from people who are “PRIMARILY SONGWRITERS’ (Not performers) who are trying to find out “What is NEXT for my music?” Well, sometimes, unfortunately, there IS NO NEXT. A lot of the time, the material, the knowledge, the understanding, is simply NOT THERE. Not everyone is cut out to be a star. And in this era of “free music,” you have to face the realities that you are more likely to get struck by lightning in a submarine underwater, than have a successful music career from “just songwriting.”
But before you get all depressed, and throw all your lyrics and CD’s of your songs away, there are some bright spots. Hang on and I’ll tell you about them. But first, you need to understand how we got where we are.
In days of YORE, there used to be a very clear divide. There were “SONGWRITERS” the GERSHWINS, COLE PORTERS, IRVING BERLIN’S, ETC. that WROTE the songs, and ARTISTS, “JOLSON, SINATRA, CROSBY, ELVIS, etc. that sang them. And while there would be elements of that that last on into today, a big part of that ended on FEB. 9, 1964, when four young guys from Liverpool England, did a television show, called the ED SULLIVAN SHOW, in front of MILLIONS of people. The BEATLES sent a shock wave through the annals of music history and the industry. They WROTE THEIR OWN SONGS. And from then on out, every rock and pop artist were judged by their ability to write as well as perform and record.
Throw in the poet laureate of that generation, Bob Dylan, and suddenly EVERY artist WAS THE WRITER. Bands like the Stones, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, etc. were all known for their songwriting. They had their own experiences and emotions. Following into the 70’s with the “SINGER/SONGWRITER” era, with James Taylor, Carol King, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Bernie Taupin, followed by the bands like the EAGLES, and EVERYONE ELSE, the songs were written by themselves or their tight insulated circles. Their friends, publishers, record labels, producers, insiders, all provided endless material. Even when they didn’t write it themselves, it was usually provided by well-connected insiders.
In country, the separation of writers and artists continued into the 2000’s. Then the INTERNET happened. Suddenly, MUSIC WAS FREE!! So publishers began to develop their own artists around their catalogues. Hit writers took younger artists under their wings and became their managers, agents, publishers, songwriters, producers and PART of their overall approach. ARTIST BRANDING took over for the “songs” and share in the overall artist’s career.
It is the same reason American Idol and major record labels began the “360 DEGREE DEAL” which includes touring, merchandising, endorsements, etc. anything that an artist makes money on, the parent company also makes money.
When money is lost in one revenue stream, it is made up in another.
And since a majority of people EXPECT AND GET music for FREE. It comes in unendingly, 30-60 MILLION artists, writers, etc. 1 BILLION SONGS A MONTH, SUPPLY AND DEMAND. Now it is very difficult to monetize a music career. And for songwriters, it is even harder. That is a LOOSE explanation of how we got here. There are many more details, but I’m not going to cover those here. Those are for other people to do. But don’t despair, there are things you CAN DO, to build your own universe. And that is coming in PART 2.
“YOU DON’T CHOOSE MUSIC, MUSIC CHOOSES YOU.”
by Marc Alan Barnette