70 Best Career Tips of the Year


Compiled by Andy Mesecher

Quick links: Songwriting - Preproduction - In The Studio - Behind the Glass - Practicing - Performing - Promotion - Submissions

First Off...

Photo: Justin Hogan

Learn the Industry: “Know the basics––how labels, managers and agents work, what a sync placement is, the ins and outs of publishing, etc. Stay on top of changes, new technologies, new deals and the major players in the industry. Knowing the industry will help you navigate your way and will show your label/distribution partner that you’re serious.”
—Heather Badower, Marketing Director, BFM Digital

Think positive: “All you can do is your best to adapt and make music. I wake up every day thinking, ‘I’m never going to make another good song.’ It’s a constant struggle for everyone. You have to stay positive and think how you can keep up with what’s going on.”
—Benny Blanco, producer-songwriter (Ke$ha, Maroon 5)



“Some of the best songwriters aren’t really strong musicians, and some of the best musicians aren’t strong songwriters. At some point I realized I had to get away from piano. I’m not as proficient on guitar, and I thought, ‘Maybe that’s a good thing.’ So to this day, I write mostly on guitar.”
—Greg Wells, songwriter (Kelly Clarkson, Adele, Katy Perry)

Branch out: “The people who stick around in this business are the ones that don’t have one particular sound. Producers who focus on writing classic records, classic melodies and the pure structure of a song [will survive]. Those with the gimmicky themes will wash out.”
—Rico Love, producer (Fergie, Skrillex) 

Discuss money: “If you can come to an agreement that suits everybody in the band, you’ve set a foundation for creatively moving forward. Difficulties often come when there is a principal songwriter in the band, leaving any non-songwriting members wondering what they’ll earn if any of the songs become hits.”
—Robbie Gennet, songwriter, author

Trust the kids: “A lot of producers are quick to write-off an 18 or 19-year-old’s opinion on a song. But I embrace it. I’ll trust an 11-year-old’s opinion before I’ll trust a 40-year-old’s, because kids have some sixth sense about what works.”
—PJ Bianco, producer (Jonas Bros., Demi Lovato, Metro Station)

Your final career choice: “[Songwriting] is one of the hardest ways to make a living, and I don’t recommend that anyone do it if they have some inkling of a ‘Plan B.’ … Most of my career has been a complete commercial failure. There were spikes if something would make money for a label or a publisher, but these huge valleys of not making money would go on for years.”
—Greg Wells, songwriter

Make time for life: “This last year I did the least amount of sessions since 2006, when I became a full-time songwriter. But I had as many, if not more, cuts and more singles on the radio than ever. I think it’s because I gave myself time to live a life. I had more to write about.”
—Evan “Kidd” Bogart, songwriter-producer

No more auto-tune: “As songwriters, it’s always melodies. A couple of years ago it wasn’t cool. Everything was auto-tuned and had the attitude of being dark and cool. Now pop is coming back. Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ is piano and vocal and it’s a huge hit.”
—Carl Falk, songwriter (Nicki Minaj, One Direction)

Dare to be bad: “I’m a big fan of first thought/best thought...You have to turn off the part of your brain that is shrieking in protest at every little thing that it perceives you’re doing wrong or is derivative or bad in some way. If you write something bad it’s not the end of the world.”
—Jonathan Mann

You don’t have to be an expert: “All I know is that I love the almost naïve approach I have to writing a song, as opposed to someone who’s had training. I don’t know every technical aspect of songwriting, I can’t read music, but I can hear things in my head, and I’m not over-analyzing the song process because of technicalities.”
—Ladyhawke, recording artist

Study songwriting: “What songs move you so much that you listen to them or play them hundreds of times? Examining songwriters will help immeasurably in your own songwriting progress. Familiarizing yourself with an ever-widening variety of chords and changes will give depth to your songwriting.”
—Robbie Gennet, songwriter

1 2 3 4 5 6 7