If you have never written an original song before you might be wondering if it would worth the try to create your own songs instead of playing only covers.
I have a friend who is a two-time Grammy-winning sound engineer, who once said to me: “The most important things in the music industry are the songs. It’s all about the songs.”
I never forget this idea because it’s very true. If you are serious about your music career, it’s extremely important to write your own songs. But why is it so important?
1. They identify you as an artist with your songs
If you are a musician, you probably have favorite musicians, who are extremely good at their instruments. People like Marcus Miller, Vinnie Colaiuta… or we can go on with the list. You like them because they are great instrumentalists.
But the average (non-musician) listener doesn’t give a shit how good you are with your instrument. I have NEVER heard a non-musician ever saying “I like the Dave Matthews Band because the bass player is so good”.
If it’s an average music fan, it sounds more like: “I love this song!”.
Nobody gives a shit how good you are with your instrument UNLESS you are a genius and you are amongst the top 0.01% best music virtuosos in the world.
2. It’s a true art
Playing solely cover songs is not really art, it’s kind of a cliché. Nobody cares if you can perfectly copy the painting of the Mona Lisa. They only care about the original piece because it’s original art.
There’s nothing bad about playing cover songs once in a while, all big artists are doing it. I’m playing some cover songs with my band too. But if you ONLY doing cover songs, you are not creating, you are just copying.
Although there are many singers who didn’t write the songs they published, people still identify them with those songs, because they were the ones who FIRST published those songs. You can in fact hire songwriters and be the first who publish those songs, and it’s still better than playing only cover songs.
3. You can get more income from your music career
As a songwriter, you can earn more income from your music because of the royalties. From radio and TV plays to online streaming and sync licensing (if your music gets into a movie), they all generate you extra income. It’s really hard to make money in the music industry nowadays, so every little thing counts.
Not to mention, sometimes it’s complicated to get permission to publish a cover song, or license it for a music video. (You need permission from the songwriter AND the record label to create a music video for a cover song!)
4. You will become immortal
Nobody remembers cover bands from the past, no matter how good they are. But if you write an original song, you will become immortal. That original piece will exist forever (or at least until human beings will exist). People will listen to your music probably for hundreds or thousands of years from now.
We are still listening to bands that created songs decades ago, and the band or the songwriter don’t even exist anymore.
5. You can express yourself
Every songwriter has a certain unique style of how they write music. It’s not just the musical style (like rock or country music), but the whole music. Think about the style of the Dave Matthews Band or any other great artist. Their music and songwriting style is completely unique. Even artists with more “commercial” music like Taylor Swift has a certain style of how she writes songs.
This is how you can truly express yourself. By writing your original, unique songs. And it’s not just about what the lyrics are saying (your thoughts and feelings), but also the complete style and MOOD of that song – musically speaking.
Everyone knows the mood of the song “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed, and they still play that song on the radio.
6. You can get credited and awarded as a songwriter
If you learn how to write great songs, you will get credited as a songwriter, and you can also win awards, for example, you can win the Grammy or you can get awarded at songwriting competitions.
(Read our article: Are songwriting contests worth it?)
7. You can create your own music project
If you are great with your instrument, your only option is to play in other people’s bands (or creating your own cover band…). But the truth is, there are a LOT of great musicians, and the competition is really high.
On the other hand, there are fewer good songwriters out there. And also, if you write your own songs, you can create your own musical project and you won’t depend on anyone.
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.