Investing In Your Songwriting

I get lots of my inspiration for articles and blogs from things my songwriting coaching clients bring up in our sessions. Last week I had a writer say they couldn’t afford to pursue their songwriting because they simply didn’t have the funds. He let me know he was giving up . Period. I understand the discouragement but it opened up a conversation about why his bank balance and passion were related. They don’t have to be.

Usually when I’ve heard this it’s a case of too much money spent in the wrong places. Demoing songs that weren’t killer and face it…trying to polish a turd sometimes. No amount of money spent on production is going to make an “ok” song suddenly transform into a killer song. Do this often enough and you not only end up broke but pretty discouraged. Maybe to the point of giving up on your passion. That sucks.

The Plan

So, what can you do? Have a plan. Anytime I’ve met with my publishers over the years to play them a few new roughs the conversation turned to the need for a plan. A little strategic thinking. Who’s looking for a song like this? Do we have a path to get it to the producer, label or maybe even the artist? Does it need to be a full-blown production? Is it the type of song that could shine with a minimum of instrumentation? Guitar/vocal? Keys/vocal? Does the type of artist it suits actually take outside songs? Does this put a potential artist in a favorable light? Is there an artist that you can see slipping right into this song? All these questions are huge and ones you can ask yourself if the person trying to network the song is you.

We all love our babies but not all of them need to go to Ivy League schools. Some are community college songs, some are vocational school songs, and some are minimum wage songs. Think hard. Is your song worth an investment right now, as is? Pro songwriters don’t demo everything they write and neither should you.

Where To Invest?

Maybe that hard earned money would be better spent on attending a workshop, NSAI membership, joining songwriting groups, one on one coaching, new gear, a few books. Maybe it’s even saving up for a move to a music center. Whatever helps you get better is a good investment in my book. Maybe it’s music school. Some great ones out there, Belmont here in Nashville, Berklee in Boston, University of Miami, IU in Bloomington Indiana. Will a degree in music or songwriting guarantee a return on your investment? Nope. But all of these things improve the odds.  My point is this path you’re on is not about a roll of the dice. Nothing’s harder on the spirit then gambling and losing…big.  It’s about growth.  Gaining knowledge that you can eventually turn into inspiration gets you closer to a plan, a better shot and hopefully a sensible budget. It’s for sure that understanding all you can about your path helps keep you from having unrealistic expectations.

I’m not much of a believer in a plan B when it’s comes to the music business, you have to give it everything but … you can be smart about using your resources. At the end of the day, you have to invest in yourself and your talent but you can invest wisely for the long run. That’s a plan.

Your Passion

A last note about your wallet and your passion. My father-in-law passed away a few years back. A great guy with a huge passion for golf. The other thing he had was a realistic expectation. He knew to make a living for himself and his family he would have to be one amazing golfer. He’d have to sacrifice everything for his passion for it to become his career. Would he have loved to be a pro golfer? You bet. Somewhere along the line he probably felt he couldn’t afford the commitment. Did he give up the sport? No way. He played for the love of it, played as often as he could, invested in new clubs, golf outings, travel, books and instruction. I think he was happy to budget wisely to support his passion. He got better and better and enjoyed the game more and more as years went on. I’d call that another wise investment.

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

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Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark is in the process of writing his first book, “Song Journey” to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.