Let’s face it, the act of beginning a song is much more interesting to most than actually the act of finishing a song. There are a number of reasons that I think many great songs sit between two loop locations, and sit there for years, while their creators pine, worry and stew over which direction the song should take. And then there are sometimes the songs that people start and then wonder what in the world they were thinking by even considering bringing something that weird in to the world! In this article, I’d like to go over 5 reasons you want to finish a song regardless of how much you do, or do not like it
A lot of people forget that songwriting is technically a skill apart from the instrument that they may play, or the vocals that they may sing. Just because you are a good singer, it doesn’t mean you are a good song writer. Just because you can play like a banshee, it doesn’t mean you can start or even complete a song. If you want to improve your skills at song writing, you need to practice. The only way to write a song is to finish a song. Or it’s not a song, is it? It’s just a song file, or a session file that sits there on your computer and only you get to hear it every once in a while. Don’t delude yourself. If you haven’t completed a song, you’ve never written one.
When I first got back in to music after a few years of not doing any at all I made a pact with myself that I would only ever have three songs that I was currently working on, up until I finished one of the three. Once I finished a song, I would allow myself the fun of writing a new one, if I was bored with one of the other two songs in waiting. But no more than that! This would force me to finish sometimes 2 to 3 songs in a week. I had an album’s worth of material in 6 weeks (8 songs), which ended up being the 8 songs that I was signed to a recording deal for a year later.
Once you’ve finished a couple of songs, even if you don’t like either one of them, you begin to notice a pattern in your weaknesses as a composer, producer, and as a musician and a vocalist if applicable. That’s the cool part of composing - you get to hear the weaknesses as they exist all the way across your list of talents, and the people who work on your songs. If you play your music in playlists with other recording artists, you begin to hear areas of your songs that you could extend, reduce or eliminate. You hear verses that work and that don’t. You begin to be able to self-critique, objectively, which is an amazing skill. It’s also a radical step forward in overcoming your own insecurities, and really growing as a song writer, and as a performer. It’s sometimes hard to go back and hear your own performance. Get over it! If you want to do music full time, you gotta be able to hear yourself, objectively!
It’s hard for friends and family to be supportive of your music if they don’t know what the $%^ you are doing on those little boxes and laptops, all day long! If you are in a situation where you feel like people don’t take your music seriously, then you need to finish a song and let them hear it! Let me fill you in on a little secret about people: they love seeing someone else succeed… Even if they can’t admit it. And a finished song, regardless of the quality, is interpreted by most as a complete work, ready for publishing.
Non-musicians don’t usually understand what a sketch or a loop means. For most, it means just some irritating melody that plays over and over again on a computer, that doesn’t really go anywhere. But when you drop an MP3 in someone’s email or send them a link on SoundCloud to a finished piece of work… well, that’s when you begin to gain some legitimacy as an artist. Because regardless of sound quality, a completed song is a publishable piece of work. And a publishable piece of work is content. And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s content on the internet that makes the whole world go round now.
As I mentioned in the last point, a completed song, created under your own steam automatically makes you a content creator, someone who can contribute to the internet as opposed to just going online and reading and listening to others' work. Once friends and family, online and off hear that you have successfully written songs and completed them, you may begin to receive invitations for shows, offers to supply music for family businesses, music for home movies, local documentaries. There’s a ton of possibilities, as we live in a global community filled with a lot of really talented people who create all the time. By dropping a few completed songs in to the collective pool, you’re legitimizing yourself as someone who can deliver, because you have! That means that you’re trustworthy to work with others, as far as most are concerned. And, that you’ll finish what you start.
Any producer will tell you to write as many songs as you can. The more songs you write, the better performer, songwriter, musician and producer you will become. The more songs you have being rotated throughout the world means more of a royalty stream for you, over time. One song can generate a fortune, over many years if it goes big enough. Imagine being an artist who’s written multiple hits! Can you imagine having 20 to thirty songs caring for you financially, long after you have an interest in writing anymore? I know I could. I think it’s time to write another song!