There are different situations in life when a songwriter considers whether it’s worth writing songs anymore. This can be a situation when your songs didn’t make any success at all, but I also know highly successful musicians who told me they hate to write new songs anymore. Depending on your situation and goals, there are many things to consider.
How is your financial situation
The question is, what’s your age and your financial situation. If you are only 16 years old, then quitting songwriting would be stupid. You still have enormous time to learn and write hundreds of songs. At the age of 16, most people don’t have to worry about getting a job or paying bills. We have all the time to learn at this age. At the same time, it’s also completely possible to learn other things besides music. In fact, that’s what I would do if I was 16 again.
On the other hand, if you are over 40, that’s a different question. I’m not saying that you need to stop writing songs when you are older. But at that age, you have much more responsibilities. You need to pay bills, you may already have children to support, maybe a mortgage.
If you are struggling to pay the bills and can barely support your family, then songwriting probably shouldn’t be a priority – unless you already make decent money with your songs. And if your financials are not stable, if you are worried about money all the time, you can’t give your best to songwriting anyway. Ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
What’s your goal
Think about what’s your goal with songwriting. Of course, everyone wants to be famous and rich, and write songs for famous artists. Or everyone wants to write songs for themselves and become famous. But is that realistic? I don’t think so. The odds are against you. Only a tiny percentage of musicians become successful or even make any money.
I’m not saying that you should definitely give up, but it’s always better to be realistic. Even if you are planning to make a living from music, it’s smart to have a plan “B”. Or more like an extra source of income. When it comes to music, I don’t think it’s a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket. The music industry is one of the most unpredictable ones.
Before the pandemic, about 50% of my income came from music. Mostly from live concerts, playing my own songs. Since the pandemic, that source of income went almost zero. I only get some money from online music sales and royalties. I wouldn’t be able to live at the same standard of living from only those royalties. (Even though 10,000 people listen to my songs on Spotify every single month!)
I’m extremely happy that I didn’t put all my eggs in one basket, and I have income from other sources, not just from music. So even if you want to take songwriting very seriously, it doesn’t hurt to build an extra source of income.
Is it worth being a songwriter?
I studied only music and nothing else from the age of 8 until the age of 25. Unfortunately, nobody told me that there are no “jobs” for musicians. (Unless you join a symphony orchestra or the opera. Or if you go teaching music, but I don’t consider music teaching as a career in music.)
But there is definitely no such thing as a job for songwriters. If you want to become a full-time songwriter, you are on your own. In other words, you become an entrepreneur. And it means that it’s not just songwriting that you need to learn. You need to be able to promote your songs, and yourself as a songwriter. And you also need a lot of luck to meet the right people at the right time and right place.
There are two ways to become successful as a songwriter. You either write songs for an artist that becomes famous or an artist who is already famous. (The chances for the latter are really low. They already have their own songwriters.) Or you can write songs for yourself if you are a performing artist. But in that case, your music project has to become successful in order for you to make money as a songwriter. None of these scenarios are easy. As I already mentioned, only a tiny percentage of artists become successful or even make any money.
But I’m not saying that it’s impossible. You don’t even need to write songs for extremely popular artists in order to make money. There are many musicians who are not extremely famous but they make decent money with their music. They won’t become a millionaire overnight, but they can make enough money to be able to support their life. And as I mentioned in my own story, you don’t have to earn 100% of your money from songwriting. It’s not black or white. It’s completely possible to create another source of income besides music.
Why do artists stop making music?
There are many different reasons why some people stop writing songs. For example, as we know, finances could be one of these reasons. Another reason could be is that people change over time. One thing can be extremely important in one stage of your life, but other things can become more important later. For example, many people get extremely busy after they have a child. Because raising a child requires a lot of time so they don’t have as much time anymore.
Another reason can be burnout. But what is burnout exactly? Many people think that working too much causes burnout but it’s not true at all. There are many things that can cause burnout, including not getting enough sleep, lack of physical exercise, or too much stress. But generally, people experience burnout if they feel like their work is meaningless. If you love your work and are motivated, you won’t experience burnout.
People usually stop creating music because they don’t reach success with their music. If nobody listens to your songs, it becomes meaningless to write them, right? In order to feel like it’s worth writing new songs, you should see a growing number of listeners and income. One of the reasons for lack of success can be quality. So maybe you need to write better songs. But even if you write great songs, it’s not enough. Because promoting your music is also as important as writing good songs. Today, there is too much noise out there. It’s not just the millions of other artists, but the millions of other businesses are also your competition. They all compete for the attention of the people. So no matter how good songs you write, you need to promote them in order to reach people. If you see the results, writing songs will become more meaningful and you probably won’t want to stop writing new songs.
The secret pattern behind successful songs
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About the Author
Producer, songwriter at Bánhidy András, and Barrio Latino Hungría. Author of The Rhythm Code.