Here’s a bold statement to start things off with…
From now on, I am not going to write albums anymore, instead, I’m going to create and maintain an ever-changing and constantly evolving body of work.
An aural portfolio as it were.
Photographers have a visual portfolio available for their clients so why shouldn’t I, as a songwriter, have an aural portfolio of my songs available online?
I came to this conclusion after my experiences firstly, with the writing, recording and releasing of my first CD “Seeing Stars” which took an extraordinarily long time to create and secondly, with my self imposed songwriting challenge of writing, recording and releasing six online albums by the end of 2014.
I learnt the hard way that creating an album takes a lot of effort, money and some time off the live music circuit to actually produce the thing. Then there’s this huge stressful build-up to the release of the CD and once released, it’s so very easy to lose momentum with the result being the old “boxes of CDs under the bed” routine.
Personally, I found that writing for an album of 12 – 15 songs seemed too limiting in its scope to me.
In creating my first CD I put together an initial list of 30 songs which was whittled down to 25 then 15 with 12 songs being the final number.
What was I going to do with the other songs? I created a “Bonus CD” out of it however, these songs still had value and should not be discarded onto some scrap-heap. They should be included into a body of work to be re-purposed in some way.
More on re-purposing my music later.
The more I look into this paradigm shift from creating albums to maintaining an aural portfolio I’ve become more a fan of the “record and release often” concept.
Putting together a body of work by recording and releasing one song at a time will allow me a constant flow of momentum while still playing live and doing all of the other necessary activities an independent musician needs to be doing at the same time.
But don’t get me wrong though… The concept of carrying physical CDs purely for sale at gigs still rings true for me but for the online world, the CD (and even downloads for that matter) are becoming less and less relevant.
Another part of this shift in thinking is that I’ve decided to give away my music for free and devote all my energies on finding ways to be found online, re-purpose my music and build my mailing list based on my aural portfolio rather than trying to sell individual downloads online.
I am taking my lead from a San Franciscan songwriter guy by the name of Dave Hahn. He’s set up his own aural portfolio at songwriter.fm
David gives his music for free for two main reasons which he explains on his website. He says…
“First, I really want people to hear the music I’ve written. The only thing better than creating something exciting is sharing that something with others. For me, writing songs is about connecting with people, telling a story, and sharing a common experience. Writing a song is, then, only half of the thrill of being a songwriter. I also want people to hear it!
Second, I want to build a career as a songwriter. As a Broadway conductor, I worked with some of history’s best songsmiths. I’ve seen what it takes to write a great song and to make a career out of it. What it takes is this: People need to hear your songs, like your songs, and give you the resources to make more of them. That could come in the form of a Kickstarter donation, a TV or film placement, a commission, a publishing deal – or any kind of songwriting project. I want to work on those projects.”
In giving his music away for free, David Hahn is concentrating on the other ways that a songwriter can make some money out of their music rather than the old buy/sell downloads model. I know that there are plenty of artists that have adopted a “pay what you want” model but me, I want to start giving away my music for free.
Doing this is not an exercise in devaluing my music. I’m looking at this as increasing my chances of getting found, increasing my chances of exploring the other options for monetising my music.
On songwriter.fm you can sign up to David’s mailing list where you get a free song each week plus, you can browse his site and listen to all of his other songs. Each of his songs have their own page with lyrics, sheet music downloadable as a PDF, a YouTube video of the song and a Soundcloud version of it too.
I really like the idea of each and every song being a focal point of music discovery for somebody and utilising social media at the same time.
The site layout is extremely simple and specifically designed to facilitate some sort of dialogue between client and songwriter. For me, stumbling upon David’s website was a real game-changer for me. Very inspiring indeed.
Through studying songwriter.fm I realised that there are many ways that a song can be re-purposed for discovery or monetary purposes. My job as a songwriter (besides writing songs) is to find the many different way that my songs can be re-purposed such as:
- To be performed by me
- For others to perform
- To get a publishing contract
- To be licensed in film/TV/theatre
- As a stepping stone to my next song
- To collaborate/network with other songwriters/musicians
- To self promote via social media
My belief is that as a songwriter I shouldn’t have to worry about genres, trends and fads because what I write, what I create and the output of my creation should be anything that I want it to be.
Not to suit some arbitrary collection of songs
If I write something that can be turned into something with a country twinge then so be it. If I write a song that has a strong leaning towards rock then so be it.
I always thought that to be truly a liberated songwriter is to create without prejudice to the outcome and the aural portfolio approach I’ll be adapting in 2015 is something that will take me one step closer to it. I’ll keep you posted.