Debunking myths

Myth 1: Overnight Success. We always hear and repeat our favorite musician success stories, like so and so who was discovered playing in a dive bar and 6 months later was famous and had a record contract. What about the ten years leading up to the night he was ‘discovered,’ when he was playing his heart out at the same dive bar? He prepared for 10 years for his ‘overnight’ success.

Don’t get me wrong. I love those success stories. But I’m just as interested in what kept that person playing night after night for ten years as I am in the rest of the story.

My intent is not to burst anyone’s bubble. I just want to remind you that 99.9% of the time, there is no such thing as overnight stardom, overnight fame or overnight riches.

Myth 2: Get Rich Quick! How many times have you seen these words in the subject of a spam email, in a junk mail letter or in the back pages of a tabloid magazine?

When you see these words, run the other way! The only legal ways I know of to get rich quickly are 1) win the lottery or some other gamble, like horse racing, or 2) inherit money.

Myth 3: Songwriting is Easy. The corollary to this one is ‘the best songs are the ones that fall into your lap from the sky/muse/in a dream and write themselves effortlessly.’

I don’t dispute that great melodies fall out of the sky once in a while, as do great lyrics. Even then, your effort is needed, little details like editing, arranging, filling in the missing verses, etc.

And even if songwriting is easy for you, and I hope it is, there’s the work to be done after the song is complete: demoing it, pitching it, promoting it, recording it, marketing it, etc.

Maybe that part is easy for you, too. However, many creative types get a huge headache thinking about the business side of songwriting. Anyway, that’s not really songwriting, you say. Fair enough. But if you aim to do this for a living, thinking about and working on business is unavoidable. And until you’re famous, you probably won’t have anyone to do it for you. You’ll have to do it yourself.

So instead of calling the myth ‘songwriting is easy,’ perhaps it should be ‘making a career of songwriting is easy.’

So, am I saying that it’s gonna be hard and it has to be that way and that hard work is the only way to get ahead? Not at all. To me, songwriting is a joy most of the time, including some of the business stuff. Does that mean it’s easy most of the time? No. But I enjoy the process even when it’s not easy.

Hard isn’t the same as bad. I don’t even think about ‘hard’ or ‘easy’ when I’m focused on the song. For most of us, whether it’s hard or easy is irrelevant.

Myth 4: Writing songs will make you famous. Does anybody know who wrote Celine Dion’s hits? How about the name of the songwriters who wrote hit songs for Norah Jones, Cher or Bonnie Raitt? To give the men equal time, do you know who wrote Eric Clapton’s hits? How about Rod Stewart, Michael Bolton or Justin Timberlake?

You can have a successful career as a songwriter and never have your face on the cover of the Rolling Stone (or any other tabloid magazine for that matter). So if you want to be a star and make your name a household word, maybe songwriting isn’t the right vehicle for you. Of course, if you’re a performing songwriter, that’s a different story.


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