Album credits make one thing perfectly clear – it’s smart to write with the artist. There’s no denying that. However, not every artist is worth your time and creativity.
Here are 5 red flags that mean you should probably NOT write with the artist.
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Okay, if the artist is already a star and cuts their own songs, you should definitely write with him or her if you get the chance. Do it, be thankful for the opportunity, and bring your best work.
However, most artists are NOT stars. They’re unsigned artists who hope to become stars. And maybe they look great and even sing great. I know in those cases it can really be tempting to go “all in” with those artists in the hopes that they’ll make it big – and take you with them.
But most artists never become stars, and here are five reasons many of them are doomed.
If your artist cowriter (or potential cowriter) is doing any of these things, consider it a major warning sign. These artists probably aren’t going to make it. Sorry.
1. Doomed artists disregard their fans (or potential fans).
In the old music biz, maybe you could get away with being mysterious and aloof. But in the social media age, you can’t be too cool for school. Look at Taylor Swift. She’s one of the biggest stars on the planet, and she built her career by LOVING her fans. She surprises and delights them. She cares about them. In return, they care about her.
If your artist expects their music – and ONLY their music – to build a legion of raving fans… they’re sadly mistaken.
2. Doomed artists are waiting for a hero.
Is your artist friend waiting around for someone else to make their dreams come true? Are they just killing time until they get discovered by a manager, booking agent or label who will do all the hard work and open all the right doors?
The artists who are likely to make it have an incredible work ethic. Their attitude isn’t “who’s going to let me?” It’s “who’s going to stop me?” They get off the couch or out of the studio, and they hustle. They book their own shows, they connect with fans. Those are artists who are likely to be discovered – because they’re discoverable!
3. Doomed artists treat music like a hobby.
This is similar to the previous red flag. But while the last type of artist really wants to succeed but has given away their power, this artist either doesn’t really want success or is just plain lazy. This artist is probably naturally very talented and hasn’t had to work that hard to get some attention. As a result, maybe they’ve never learned how to grind. Or they just aren’t willing.
Either way, their lack of work ethic means they’ll probably never become a star.
4. Doomed artists act entitled.
I don’t care who your artist friend is, the world does NOT owe them success, or even attention. Just because they care about their own music doesn’t mean that anyone else has to. Why should anyone treat them like a star when they are NOT a star?
Also, entitled artists usually don’t have as much hustle because they feel like success and attention should be handed to them by the mere fact that they want and expect attention and success. That kind of attitude will turn off folks in the music biz, and it’ll eventually turn off fans, too.
5. Doomed artists radiate bitterness or negativity.
Believing that you won’t succeed is a self-fulfilling prophecy. So if your artist friend believes he or she is being “held down” by gatekeepers, publishers or record labels and THAT is what’s keeping them from success… run away.
This negative, bitter attitude gives away the artist’s power and ownership over the situation. They’ve allowed themselves to become a victim. This attitude will also repel real music biz pros. And even worse… it’s contagious.
You do NOT want to catch a negative attitude from the artist. Before you know it, you’ll start seeing all the reasons you CAN’T succeed, and you’ll stop seeing all the reasons you CAN succeed.
There you go. Five warning signs that you should not be writing with an artist. Now, if you write amazing songs with this person, it might be worth it to keep writing with them- IF you treat them like a non-artist cowriter. In other words, don’t wait around for that artist to take those songs to #1. If they’re great, pitch them to other artists.
If your cowriter doesn’t want you to pitch them anywhere, use these cool songs to get new cowriters. Then move on.
I know this may be hard to hear. I know it may force you to confront an uncomfortable truth you’ve been ignoring. But I’ve personally wasted too many songs and days on artists like the ones on this list.
I want you to avoid my mistakes.
If you want to dive deeper into this topic- or any other songwriting problem you might have, it’s time to sign up for a coaching session. These sessions are personal (1-to-1), confidential, and it doesn’t matter where in the world you live. We meet online, so it’s like we’re in the same room (only you don’t have to wear socks and shoes).
This is your chance to ask me YOUR questions, work on YOUR songs, pick my brain, etc. Basically, it’s my time to serve you however I can, on a comfortable one-to-one basis.
God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,
Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.