Hi. Jesse, and welcome to the Forum!
1. Write good songs. Never stop writing good songs, even if you are tempted to write mediocre songs for the business.
If you write good songs, you will always be happy if the business yields little monetary-or-fame (and for making it a career, you will need [need] (need) a day job. You will learn why Jesus said, "Many are called, but few are chosen." Don't despair over the idea of a day job. A really great day job can be one that relates your songwriting to your calling. I became first a piano teacher, then a music minister, both of which were virtually unlimited in the freedom to write songs and venues of all sorts (venues you could hardly imagine) in which to present them.
2. If your career involves getting money or distributing your songs to a large audience, find a patron -- pull from the top is stronger than push from the bottom.
3. Love God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.
Put number 3 at number 1
1 Love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself.
Truly (though in a sequence, one may conclude with the most important -- but in thatcase, I should have numbered 3,2,1).
Hi Greg and and Vic.
Thanks for both of your inputs and responses.
Can I upload songs on this forum as well?
Blessings to both of you!
Just want to echo Greg's first point, or is it now 3rd point :-) I think it is really important, certainly in the lyrics, to write what God has placed on your heart rather than try and work out what other people will want to hear or sing, and after all if God is speaking to you about something he will also be speaking to others about the same themes. So in summary, seek God and not the fame. Every Blessing!
You can post links to songs like so https://soundcloud.com/joeaikenmusic/keep-me-from-falling-by-joe
...like in the Bible where the king says (something like), "all these prophets give me nice prophecies, but I need to hear from a real prophet!"
Hi Jesse. Since this is a worship leader site, I am assuming you you are referencing worship songwriting. Though, many aspects of the music industry are the same for secular and non-secular alike. This may sound as if I'm over-spiritualizing this, but when you say "making it a career, be sure that you are following God's plans for you as opposed to finding a career. If you feel this is where God misleading then, of course, by all means follow the doors He will open for you.
As both a songwriter and an artist, the steps of success (in the terms of career) are very similar in all areas of the music business. What gets a publisher's and label's attention is, well, attention. What I mean is, the writer needs to spend time building a foundation of support and interest in what he/she is writing. In the worship music field, this would mean to begin by trying to incorporate your songs into your local church. If you want to do this songwriting this seriously, you MUST HAVE THICK SKIN. This is why it is imperative that you make certain this is God's plan (in regards to a career). Being a songwriter has many, many ups and downs. You may have some songs that are great and your church may jump right into them, or one of them. Since I do not know the level of your experience, you may or may not have done this.
If you have not done this, here are the steps I take.
1. Patience! After I "feel" a song is complete, I walk away from it for at least a week and then listen to it or play it again. More times than not I end up re-writing a line or two or a chord progression or something similar. You do not want to present a song that isn't as good as it can possibly be.If it is a congregational song, be sure to follow these guidelines:
a. Is it singable? Make sure it isn't too wordy or difficult to learn.
b. Is it in a proper key? A song too low or too high is a sure participation killer.
2. First Set of Ears: After I am comfortable that the song is finished, I play it for a few people - these are people who love me enough to be honest with me. In my case it is mainly my daughters. After they listen to it, I sometimes make even a few more adjustments.
3. Play it for the worship leader/pastor and ask for input. If they don't feel led to use it, ask them if there is an area they can see you need to work on. Do not take offense. Be humble and grow daily. Sometimes it can be really hard. I have written some songs that I was pretty happy with (I';m my own worst critic) but, for some reason, they didn't "fly". It can be discouraging but don't let it effect you too long. I once heard a great songwriter, Morris Chapman, once say that some of his favorite songs he has ever written are ones that only he and the Lord have heard.
After you have a few songs that are in rotation and getting favorable participation and feedback, then you have something to send in other than your CD (or uploading your mp3). For instance, "Here is my new song 'God's Glory'. I hope you like it", doesn't stir much interest and there is nothing to really cause them to even listen to it. However, "Here is my newest song 'God's Glory'. We have been singing it regularly at church and our congregation has connected with it. Several other local churches have begin to sing it as well." That raises an eyebrow, or an ear, or two. Now you have a little validation to the song.
Now, you may be one of the really blessed ones to be discovered early. The best way to do that is to submit a work to an established label or publisher. I have found that one of the best is SongDiscovery by Worship Leader Magazine. Songwriters can submit a song, have it critiqued by industry professionals and, if it is good enough, make it onto one of their monthly CDs that are distributed to subscribed worship leaders all over the world. I have found numerous songs from these discs!
When you are at the point of submitting songs to professionals, quality does matter. Save up and go to a professional studio (or someone who is very proficient at home recording (I use a macbook pro with Logic pro software and a few others gadgets) and have a good quality recording made. Are you a vocalist? Even so, some of the most successful writers have other people sing on their demos, again, to make them as good as they can possibly be.
In closing, it takes a lot of patience, a lot of work, a lot of faith and a whole lot of prayer. Continue to ask God of this is His direction for you. Humility is key. You mist be willing to learn and grow - always. May the songs you create be blessed and a blessing!
This post really covers all the bases! There is perhaps another -- for your church to grow so geometrically, partly due to some fine quality in its character of worship, that it attracts attention, and its songs become associated with it. Calvary Chapel (Maranatha!), Vineyard Fellowship, Hillsong Church, Bethel Church, and Gateway would be examples. I would daresay that their musician/composers follow much the same guidelines that Jeff has laid out.
Jeff notes, "humility is key." I've published exactly one work, an hour-long music/drama on the Holy Spirit. I mean, how many people are out there looking for such a thing? But I had a friend (actually, I didn't like him all that much, but he liked me) who thought my denomination could use it. He was one of these guys who always has his ear to the ground, who seems to know everybody; and he hand-carried a copy (which I had re-done note-for-note to make it pretty) to the higher-up who noted that its theme was precisely what he was looking for in their next convention. They liked it and presented it in front of hundreds of pastors at a luncheon. Did I plan any of that? I didn't become rich and famous (the royalties were roughly equal to gas and motel to go to the convention), but it was a wonderful experience, full of small blessings I was certain were copming from God.
I've met several "big" composers and they all come off as Regular Joes Who Love the Lord -- no breezy promoter-ego about them at all, and in one-to-one conversation, they seemed truly interested in me. They often said they had no big plan to distribute their works -- the Lord just did it and they cooperated.
Consider the songs which last -- that people keep singing after their "honeymoon" has worn off. Examine them to see what qualities make them so good. If I wrote down a list of my 25 favorites, I'd find 25 songs that are different from each other -- but I can't quite define their uniqueness. They don't have anything spectacular to say "look at me! I'm a really good song!" They get inside me. What makes "Row, Row, Row, your Boat" so wonderful (the lyrics don't even make sense), when people have made up a million "rounds" to sing? But you have a chance to write songs to God which do make sense, proclaiming his love, grace, beauty, or whatever you wish to proclaim about in your text. Go for it!