Saturday, July 25, 2015

What It Means To Be A Songwriter

I claim to be a songwriter, and there's proof out there to show that I have written many songs I think are good. People out there in the world might question this claim, so it occurred to me that I should delve deeper into what it means to say someone is a songwriter.

What Is A Song? Simple Definitions

First, one must consider whether or not the things in question are what I say they are. It's arguable to say that what I call songs I've written are even songs at all, so I decided to take to the internet to see if mine qualify. "song" has some arguably official definitions you can find online from fairly reputable and reliable sources that are somewhat simple:

  • a short piece of music with words that are sung
  • a short musical composition of words and music
  • a poetical composition or poem easily set to music 

My verdict then, is that what I call songs that I've written fit such definitions, and thus indeed are actual songs, and hence and therefore, they qualify.

Proof and Quantity Might Be Important

Once I've established that I've written songs, a next question might be: how many? As if quantity might be important criteria to establish credibility necessary to call one's self a songwriter. I saw Tom Petty being interviewed on TV once where he said something like:
"You have to write at least 100 songs before you can call yourself a songwriter."
So, if there's a quantity issue, I'm close to having that covered, since I've released over 70 original songs on recordings that are currently published and "in print" and being offered for sale that you can purchase in many online music stores like Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, and Bandcamp. This fact resolves any proof issues as well. One of the reasons I've thought it was cool to get my music into stores online is the fact that I wanted proof to be out there that I have written songs and recorded them.

I'm well on my way to meeting the Tom Petty requirement if you'll take my word for it that I've written way more than what I've released - over 300 at last count, many more since I stopped counting a decade or so ago. I stopped counting because it doesn't matter so much, when you take into account how many of those are "attempts" that are not good. It's a matter of opinion, as all appreciation of all art is.

Quality and the Eye (ear) of the Beholder (listener)

As for the "quality" issue then, know that I've released my best. This means that hundreds of my songs have not been release-worthy. If you write tons of songs, and they are all terrible, are you still a songwriter? Does a bear shit in the woods? Beyond that, one might wonder what even qualifies as a quality song, and what standards exist. You can talk popularity, you can talk hooks, and you can talk "you know it when you hear it" stuff. It's up to the rest of the world I suppose to offer up their own critical judgment about whether my songs are any good or not. So far, there aren't many reviews online, but I hope there will be more in the future, and that they will be favorable.

I imagine that art for personal satisfaction is one thing, but offering it up to the public for appreciation and consumption is another. I wanted to go there out of curiosity about whether others would like my songs, and would be thrilled if I became aware that more people out there in the world like the songs I've written for any reason. I'd also be interested to know more specifics about why people like them, I'll admit. I'm just happy to know they're out there and available for discovery and liking. It's hard to explain why, but I guess it's because I thought they were personally appealing enough to not keep them totally private.

Conclusions and Beyond

My definition of what it means to be a songwriter is that when your enjoyment of writing songs gives you a level of satisfaction with the craft that makes you want to share your creations with others, so that they might also be similarly satisfied from listening to them, you can consider yourself a songwriter. My way of doing that is recording them and releasing those recordings, since I'm not much of a performer, nor do I have a desire to be one. The limitations of my vocal abilities are significant, and quality of singing is important for song performance quality.

A next stage of considering someone to be a songwriter, particularly when they are not performers themselves, would be whether or not other musicians have performed or recorded the songwriter's songs. I've made no effort make musicians aware that my songs are available for them to perform and/or record other than releasing them, and stating that they are available for licensing on my web site. Not a lot of intentional effort to pitch is happening, but should there be an interest, I'm ready to offer up permission quickly and with reasonable and fair terms.