If you love music, love to sing, and have a knack for writing and playing musical instruments, maybe you are up for becoming a singer-songwriter.
Becoming a singer and songwriter is fulfilling your passion.
You get to write what’s in your head for everyone to hear.
The best thing about following your dream to write and sing your music is that there are not any qualifications like a degree.
You don't need a lot of money or a record label to support you.
Because music production equipment is way more accessible than before, it is easier to record your thoughts into songs.
The best way to learn the basics is from experience. As you embark on this singer-songwriter journey, you will learn valuable lessons along the way.
In this article, I will show you everything you need to know on how to become a singer-songwriter.
Think of this guide as an outline of what you should do.
As you follow this guide, you will learn the rest from hands-on experience.
The internet has tons of resources, such as articles, software, and tips you need.
Because there are many resources, it can be overwhelming, so I wrote this article as a guide you should follow.
Whether you want to become a full-time singer and songwriter or just for fun, these 9 steps will help you along the way.
Remember, the key to reaching your goals is being committed.
What Does a Singer-Songwriter Do?
The obvious responsibilities of a singer are to perform and sing, and the task of a songwriter is to write songs.
However, there is more to it than just that.
A dedicated singer-songwriter will need to put their time into mastering their craft.
It means they have to practice. Learning an instrument is also essential, as most singer-songwriters like Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran write songs with a musical instrument like piano and guitar.
Singer and songwriters can sing other people's songs, and they can also write songs for other people.
There are a lot of ways you can make money if you are a singer and songwriter.
You can get hired as a writer in the studio or sell the licenses of the songs you wrote for other artists to use on their albums.
Learning how to record and produce your songs at home is a great advantage.
Instead of hiring people, you can produce all your songs at home.
Learning the basics of music production will help you get your songs out there, but we’ll talk more about that later.
Here’s how to become a singer-songwriter in 10 easy steps:
STEP 1: Know What You Want and Create Goals
Setting your goals is essential, and it gives you motivation along the way.
Without planning or creating a timeframe, there is a possibility of losing track and waste time and money.
You can set up an ultimate goal, such as gain 1 million followers.
Whatever your ultimate goal is, it is up to you.
You can also set up multiple milestones, such as create a social media page, record and release an album, or finish writing songs.
Setting goals give you a clear path to what you want, and it will help you make better decisions.
Knowing what you want early in the game enables you to focus on your priorities.
Make sure you create feasible goals.
Sometimes, you might experience changing or upgrading your goals in between your career.
An excellent to set goals and milestones is by:
- Setting a realistic goal
- Adding a deadline
- List out your goals
You can make a document of your goals, a timeframe, and a list.
Make sure you print out copies and place them anywhere that you will see it as a constant reminder.
Make sure your goals are doable, and it does not stress you out that much.
Otherwise, you will get burnt out.
STEP 2: Master an Instrument
Now that you are clear with what you want and set a timeline for your success, it is time to focus on improving your skills and talents as a singer-songwriter.
Well, the primary skills you need to become a singer is to learn how to sing.
The songwriting part comes naturally through experience.
The next best thing you should focus on is to learn how to play an instrument if you don't know how to yet.
Since you wanted to become a singer-songwriter, I am assuming you already know at least the basics of guitar or piano.
Learning and getting better at playing a musical instrument will help you write better melodies.
You do not need to learn music theory, but it will help a lot in your songwriting.
This process will take some time, though, and you can learn it along the way.
Make sure you add “mastering an instrument” to the list of your goals in the first step.
Everyone has their own way of writing.
Whatever your songwriting process is, I fell that it will work better if you learn how to play an instrument.
Of course, you can always hire musicians to record with you when you start producing singles, but it is better if you can play the song you wrote.
Learning just the basics will make a significant difference when you are ready to record songs or play live.
Once you learn the basics, you will master the instrument along the way through the experience.
STEP 3: Invest in Recording Equipment
As you are writing songs, it may be a good idea to invest in recording equipment. If you have your own gear, you won't have to hire producers, and it will save you money for other projects.
Recording gear can be expensive, but you can start by buying the essentials.
As a songwriter and singer, the essential equipment for recording would be:
- A computer
Recording music takes up a lot of memory, so if you do not want your computer crashing, make sure it has the specs required for recording.
- An audio interface
This device translates analog audio from a mic to digital audio your computer can understand and record.
- A decent microphone
As a singer, you will need a nice microphone.
Make sure you invest in a good microphone because it will take you a long way.
Buying a low-end mic will work, but it may not bring out the best of your voice.
- Recording software
You will need recording software or a DAW to start recording songs on your computer.
The software you will need will depend on the songs you will write.
If you want to write full-blown songs with complete instrumentals, you should probably look into buying complete DAWs with a full sound library such as Logic Pro X or Kontakt.
DAWs such as Reaper is an excellent budget option DAW for acoustic songwriters who don’t need a lot of instruments.
STEP 4: Start Writing Songs and Learn to Use Recording Software
Now that you have the gear you need for producing songs, it is time to start writing.
This process is one of the most crucial steps in becoming a songwriter.
The songs you will write will dictate your image and attitude, and it is essential to write songs that are uniquely yours.
As an artist, the song is your product you are selling, so make sure your songs reflect on your experiences and your stories.
While songs are the intangible product that you create, recording albums is something tangible that your potential fans can purchase.
Aim to write songs for an album.
Releasing singles is an excellent way to get your name out there, but writing enough songs for a record is probably the way to go.
When creating an album, make sure you create a theme.
Having an underlying theme will make the whole album more coherent when people are listening to it track by track.
The songwriting process will take a lot of time, but there is no rush.
It is better to polish out all the songs before you schedule for release than prematurely releasing songs that sound unfinished.
You can play the songs to close friends to get some feedback and don't be afraid to handle criticism.
Constructive criticism is something you should always accept if you want to write better music.
When writing songs, it is okay to copy the writing styles from artists that influenced you, but make sure you don't replicate existing songs.
Make sure you aim to create better songs.
- The Recording Process
After writing the songs, you can record them at your home studio.
You can record a full-length album, or an EP, depending on how many songs you have written.
It is possible to find a talented producer on freelance sites like Fiverr or Upwork.
Paying someone to master your tracks will significantly impact the quality of your tracks, so do not hold back.
It is still much affordable than recording at a professional music studio.
After producing your songs, you can decide if you want to release digital copies, physical discs, or both.
You can opt for limited CDs along with merch that you can sell at your shows.
- Consider Hiring People
If you are truly serious about becoming a successful singer-songwriter, you may want to hire people to help you.
You will need a graphic designer for your merch, logo, and album art.
You will also need a talented producer for mastering your tracks.
Unless you can do them yourself, hiring these professionals is not an option.
If you know people who can help you, you can pay them instead.
STEP 5: Create a Network
Most upcoming artists nowadays create social media pages to get their name out there.
Social media marketing is an excellent way to create and build your network.
Nowadays, social media presence is essential, so make sure you sign up for Facebook, Instagram, Tumbler, Twitter, YouTube, and even TikTok.
Handling all these pages can take most of your time, so you should probably hire someone to manage your accounts.
Having your own website is also an excellent way to look more professional.
Having a .com address where you can write blogs and sell your music is an excellent way to look more legit.
By creating an online presence, you will be able to connect with people, build a network, and get booked for shows.
- Streaming Accounts
The best way to release songs these days is through streaming accounts.
Only a few people actually buy albums these days, so the best way for people to listen to your music is through streaming apps.
You can upload your music on Spotify, Deezer, YouTube Music, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and many more.
You can get paid depending on the number of streams.
STEP 6: Book Gigs
Now that you are starting to get recognized online and have songs out on streaming platforms, it is time to book gigs.
Playing live shows is how you can organically gain a fan base and earn money.
If you don't have enough songs to play an entire set, you can play covers.
When playing live shows, you can hire musicians for a livelier set.
Booking gigs can be tricky.
Some people may not even offer to pay you at first, so expect to play for free at first.
Make sure you learn to negotiate and always ask for fair compensation.
Musicians are often not paid, which is the sad truth, but after playing for free, you will gain experience and start getting paid soon.
You can start looking for gigs at local coffee shops, pubs, farmers markets, and private events.
You can even try busking at a street corner to gain experience.
Playing your first few gigs can be scary, and you will probably get a little nervous.
This experience will build up your confidence for your next gigs, and eventually, you will get more comfortable.
STEP 7: Build a Fan Base
The fans will keep you alive, so make sure you start focusing on building a loyal fan base.
The fans will listen to you because of your music, but they will stay loyal based on your attitude towards them.
There are a lot of ways you can get fans.
You can boost your profile on Facebook or Instagram, create exciting content, or just play an outstanding live show.
Eventually, you will be able to convert people into fans based on your decisions.
Before you focus on those things, you can go back to step 2 and work on your skills.
Here are some ways to build a loyal fan base:
- Start a Newsletter
- Start a Blog
- Create interesting content
- Promote your posts by boosting them on social media
- Sell merch like hoodies, hats, and shirts
- Do online giveaways
- Start a YouTube Channel (Vlog)
There are a lot more ways to get fans, and you can start with the examples above.
This process will be a lot of work, but you can always hire someone to help you.
STEP 8: Manage your Money
Before you can make a living out of being a singer-songwriter, you will have to spend money on gear and hiring professionals to help.
It is a good idea to a lot a budget.
At this point, you will probably have some paid gigs that could aid you with your financial needs.
Make sure you spend your money wisely, and always list down your monthly expenses.
Having savings or a day job would definitely help, but make sure you don't strategize on spending.
Here are some tips on how to make the money work for you:
- Reduce your monthly expenses
At first, you will need to be a little thrifty.
You may want to cancel a few subscriptions to minimize your monthly bills and invest the money towards your career.
You can also raise money by selling things you don’t use at home.
- Hustle on the side
Look for some side hustles to supplement your income.
Make sure that you earn more than what you spend and not the other way around.
Once you become successful and make a living out of your music, you can rest easy.
- Decide if you are a full-time artist or not.
Having a day job can limit your time for your music career.
You might want to quit your day job to focus more on your career.
I'm not saying it is a good idea to quit your job.
I'm just saying that you will have more time to focus your career as a musician if you decide to become full time.
Quitting your job is a big decision, so make sure you are dedicated before making any rash decisions.
STEP 9: Maintain Your Image
The last step is to keep doing a good job.
There will be a lot of trial and errors.
Still, you will eventually overcome all the challenges with your talent and passion.
Consistency is key to becoming successful in any field.
Once you developed a system that works, just keep up the good work and always have fun.
- Should I Get a Manager?
Getting a manager will help you focus more on the singing and songwriting aspect of your career.
Hiring a manager can be worth it, as long as the person is trustworthy and appreciates your talent.
A good manager will help you book paying gigs and know how to market your brand of music.
Getting a manager will help a lot, especially if they know what they are doing.
However, during the initial stages of building your brand and fan base, you can probably manage to do them without a manager.
If you start to get paid, you can probably hire people to take care of your social media handles, so that you can focus more on writing.
- Should I Write Songs That I Want or What Other People Want?
In my opinion, it is better to write what you want to write.
Writing from your perspective makes the product purer, and people will sometimes appreciate songs written from the heart.
No matter how cliché that sounds, it is still valid.
However, writing music that the people want to hear does not mean you are selling out.
It just means you are dedicated to entertaining the people by writing the type of songs that they want to hear.
In most cases, writing from experience will get more listeners hooked and related to the music.
Becoming a successful singer and songwriter depends on the situation, your talent, and the work you put in.
Also, success is subjective.
It depends on your goal and how you define the word “success.”
It all starts and ends at the first step, where you need to set your goals.
If you have reached your goal, maybe you can challenge yourself for another run.
Just remember to don't stress out too much if you are not getting the results you are expecting.
Be relentless, and never let setbacks stop you from creating and writing music.