The Life of a Full-Time Songwriter

Gibson Girl By Gibson Girl, 21st May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Music>Composing Music

On this page I will write about why I am a songwriter, and what others thinking about becoming songwriters may want to understand upfront.

Welcome to my World

Hi... my name is Gibson Girl, and I'm a songwriter. Sound a little bit familiar? I've often wondered why they don't have meetings for songwriters, like they do for alcoholics, gamblers, and narcotics abusers. You think I'm joking, but seriously, songwriting is as much an addiction as any other.

We get up in the morning, start brewing a strong pot of coffee, and either alone or with other such addicts, we sit staring at a blank piece of paper or a screen on a computer with that little cursor blinking at us... willing us to instruct it as to which words to put down to create the perfect verse, chorus and bridge that will in essence turn the entire world on it's ear... or at least affect US that way.

Of course, we don't always have success, but then again, I guess the definition of success is simply what we have come to define it as. Whether success is playing an open mic in our hometown to a hushed and captive audience, or maybe it's driving down I-65 with the radio on and all of a sudden there it is! My song being sung by Rascal Flatts or The Band Perry, or even, heaven forbid, Taylor Swift! Nothing against Taylor, mind you, it's just that she writes her own material, as everyone knows, so the chances of hearing her sing one of my songs is pretty slim.

Over the years, I've honed my songwriting skills to a fine craft. That's not to say that I don't write the occasional 5 or 6 minute anthem that will never see the light of day, of course I do... I just try to keep the majority of them under 3:30 so as to appease the mighty radio Gods.

Still, the chances that my song will end up getting played on the radio is not good. That honor is reserved for the lucky few who have deep pockets in their corner, willing to shell out the necessary monetary amount to have their song reach low, medium or high rotation on the radio dial. After all, who really believes that there are only a handful of songs being written every year, and that the dj's are sitting around waiting for them to be hand delivered? It just doesn't work that way.

A Day in the Life

Every day on Music Row, hundreds of songwriters make their way to writing appointments at BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, or any number of writing rooms that are available at local publishing houses or Songwriting Associations, and by the end of the day they each may walk away with anywhere from 1 to 5 newly written songs, most of which will never see the light of day.

For a lucky few who win the Songwriter Lotto, their song will be placed on "Hold" with a recording artist who has shown enough interest to want to take a second or third listen and decide whether the song is right for inclusion on their next project. The hold simply keeps the song in limbo, away from the ears of other artists who may wish to record it as well. In a perfect world, the hold should only last a few days to a few months. In reality they can sit on hold for years.

I found out after the fact that one of my songs had been placed on hold for a major recording artist for 24 hours, just to be taken off hold the next day. I was thankful I didn't find out til after the fact of course, imagine that emotional roller coaster ride. I had another friend who had a song placed on hold by a major artist for 6 years! In the meantime, project after project got recorded and released, and my friend was forced to go through the excitement of the possibilities, followed closely by the agony of rejection, every time a new CD hit the shelves and his song wasn't on it. He finally had to go to the powers that be and ask them to either record the song or release it. After all, it was a GREAT song, and deserved to be heard, whether it was sung by this specific artist or not.

There are some artists who literally put hundreds of songs on hold, go into the studio, record each one, and then whittle them down to the best 10-12 that will end up on the next project. I remember hearing about how one major recording star had recorded over 200 songs, whittled down to the 12 that would appear on her next CD, and then literally 1 day before the CD went to press, she heard a song from a virtual unknown, was intrigued and requested to hear more material from this songwriter, and by the end of the day had bumped three songs... including the title song off the CD, and had replaced them with three songs by this unknown. Lucky for the newbie, seriously bad news for the bump-ees.

By now you may be thinking to yourself, "Man, this GiGi chick is seriously jaded!", to which I'd have to say... you're right! But I think that the most important fact to be gleaned from this, is that jaded or not, tomorrow morning I will wake up, put on a pot of coffee, and stare at the cursor blinking on the blank page on my computer screen, willing it to steer me right. Why, you ask? Because... I'm a songwriter.


Songwriters, Songwriting, Songwriting Tips

Meet the author

author avatar Gibson Girl
I am a singer/songwriter based out of Nashville, TN. Most of my writing will focus on the craft of songwriting in today's commercial market.

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