Unlike corporate employees, creatives are often subjected to intense scrutiny as it relates to their earning potential and ability to live financially-stable lives. When it comes on to songwriters, many have had to suffer mind-bending comments, questions, and trivializations from people who just don’t get it. Yes, perceptions have been slowly changing (especially with several prominent songwriters selling multimillion dollar catalogs in recent times), but there are still people who think most songwriters are nothing more than starving artists who need to get a “real job.”
The fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has put some parts of the music industry on standstill may have further reinforced this belief. Others simply have little understanding of how the music business works and the role of songwriters in it. While it is reasonable to forgive people with such mindsets, there are certain utterances that can be nothing short of annoying at times. Our working relationship with numerous songwriters has exposed us to some of the insensitive and weird things people say to or ask of them.
Below, we have listed 17 of the crazy things that people utter in the presence of songwriters (along with suggested responses you may or may not want to use).
“Oh, you are a songwriter…who actually writes songs..? Can you write something nice for me too?” Suggested response:Sorry, don’t think so.
[After listening to your song’s first rough draft] “Wow, this is definitely a hit…your song is going to be number one on the charts…I’m so proud of your achievements.” Suggested response: Whoa…chill, let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. There is still plenty of work to be done before we can think about that, plus the music business doesn’t exactly work like that. Note to self: While the positive reinforcement is good, you know better than to be over-confident, especially if you are yet to get the song professionally recorded much less played.
“For real..? You write songs? So, you are actually rich!?” Suggested response:Sighing and shaking your head.
[After finding out you placed one song that does not even involve a major production or a popular artist] “I would love to become a 'FAMOUS' songwriter like you…Can you teach me how to write?” Suggested response:Sure, as long as relative obscurity is what you consider to be famous.
“You wrote all these songs? When will you be going on a world tour?” Suggested response:Um…
“Nice song, I like it. I think it would be perfect for so and so’s radio show, podcast, talent competition, etc… I am sure they will play it, why don’t you email them a copy?” Suggested response:I really hope you learn more about how the music business works.
“So, your job just involves you writing songs all day? When do you actually work?” Suggested response:I don’t know…maybe when it’s sleeping time.
“Nice song…but I think you should understudy Bruno Mars (or some other popular artist) so you can write something that sounds more like his style. He writes his own stuff and look how famous he is.” Suggested response: Um…no thanks! I can only write songs like me. Note to self: While it is good to get ideas and learn from the skills of other songwriters, you have to use that information to improve your own craft rather than trying to duplicate what others are doing.
“You seem to be on the right track. Don’t forget me when you hit it big…Remember, I was the one who has always been by your side.” Suggested response:Maybe you always being there is the problem. [Okay, maybe that is a bit harsh].
“One of my exes used to be a songwriter…now he/she has a successful career as a (job that doesn’t involve songwriting).” Suggested response:I think there is a point you are trying to make somewhere in your statement, but somehow, I am missing it.
“Let me read through the lyrics of your songs.” Suggested response:Only if you let me look at the contents of your work contract (or other confidential document related to their job).
“Haven’t you outgrown this songwriting thing? Don’t you think it’s time to get a real job?” Suggested response:Hate to break it to you, but this is a real job!
“Did you just become a songwriter? How come I’ve never heard any of your songs on the radio?” Suggested response:Uh…Can’t say I’ve ever heard of you either. How long have you been a (insert their profession here) again?
“Hey, I have an idea for a song I think would make you a lot of money. Just remember to put me in the credits, so I can get some of the royalties.” Suggested response:Sounds like you have what it takes to write it yourself.
“The songs people are writing these days are nothing like those from the good old days. I mean, no offense, but I haven’t heard a good song since (insert a song from their childhood that came out at least 50 years ago).” Suggested response:So, you are comfortable with having a low music vocabulary…great!
“I wrote a song when I was just 10-years-old. What do you think about looking it over and probably help me get it on the radio?” Suggested response:I really don’t think that’s a good idea.
As you can see, people can be inadvertently mean to songwriters with their ill-timed comments and insensitive questions. However, don’t let it get to you. It’s all a part of the journey.