The typical performing songwriter is both the man-power behind and the face in front of a business built from the ground up. It’s our job to not only be inspired and create, but to understand who needs what we create, and where to make it accessible to them. Determining ‘what’ we create is no easy task, particularly if we run our business as a solo mission. To grow as writers and artists, we need the passive influence and active coaching of others. Finding those influencers requires that we participate in our local and extended music and creative arts scenes.
As writers, we can grow immensely through collaboration with other writers and artists. If you’re having trouble finding collaborators, consider any way you might begin sharing ideas with other creative minds. In my opinion, it’s best to write with musicians who are more skilled than we are. But don’t turn down any opportunity to connect with other musicians until you’ve got a solid group to choose from. Join songwriting groups via NSAI or a PRO if you live near one, take lessons on your instrument or as a songwriter at Berklee Online, join a creative writing club, hang out at a music store or music studio to connect with other like-minded musicians, and go out to watch live music in areas where your genre is played. Anywhere you can connect with other musicians, including your church or community college classes, will help you to see yourself as others see you. Over time, you can refine your group to include those musicians whose feedback you truly value, and with whom you can build a mutual trust.
We learn about our artistry in relationship with other musicians. Objectivity is hard to come by when we’re constantly looking inward. When we play our songs for others who can reflect back to us what kind of experience we’re creating, it is invaluable toward understanding what is unique and marketable about our artistry. This helps us to develop our image and our live presence, as well as steer our creativity in new directions. If we’re writing the same songs over and over again, it’s likely we’re too isolated in our thinking, not observing ourselves within the larger context of our market.
I suggest setting short-term goals to connect with others. Try connecting with one new or old musician a week, no matter how or where you meet. Pick one venue a week to frequent for one month, and get to know the artists or bands who regularly perform there. Wherever we are in our careers, the influence of others on our creativity and our connections is critical to our growth.