Three Ways to Spur
Creativity and Build Interest
in You and Your Music
WRITING GREAT songs is not just for generating
sales, commissions, and licensing deals—you can also use your songwriting skills to
increase exposure and stimulate interest in
your music. You can achieve these goals by
getting involved in song and album challenges
or contests with built-in communities,
audiences, and media interest.
The three opportunities described in this
article will not only help you promote your
music to new listeners, but also give your
songwriting skills a workout.
Challenge Accepted Songwriting
competitions like Songfight! (songfight.org)
or SongWriterWeekly (songwriterweekly.com) challenge musicians to write a song
within a week based on a song title or lyric
they post. Songfight, for example, collects
all the song submissions for the week and
posts them for visitors to vote for their
favorite. The style, genre, and content of
the song are up to the musicians; the only
fixed part of the competition is the weekly
song title or lyric. Plenty of visitors check out the music each week, and that existing
community votes on the entries they like
the best. Songfight! in particular has quite a
following because it’s been around since June
of 2000; SongWriterWeekly has existed since
|Songwriting competitions such as SongWriterWeekly challenge musicians to write a song
within a week, based on a posted lyric or song title.
The winners of these challenges don’t get
anything beyond bragging rights. Participating
in these challenges is free but also requires
the songwriter to share an MP3 of the song
for free, so others can download and listen to
it. The songs you create and submit remain
yours—to sell, license, or otherwise use as you
see fit—but you won’t make income directly
from these types of websites. That said, these
sites can generate exposure for you, as well as
motivate you to write more music.
There are two more features of these
challenges that are worth noting: Songfight!
has a news section for participating artists.
Just send them an email about album releases,
shows, or other news, and your item may be
posted on the site. There’s also a community
message board that includes music critiques
for the submitted songs. Warning: Some of the feedback can be very direct and blunt, but
criticism can help refine your skills.
Finish Your Album Fiction writers engage
in a yearly challenge called NaNoWriMo
(nanowrimo.org), which entices participants
to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of
November. Authors “win” just by finishing.
This has inspired similar challenges for
music. Some of the best known include the
Record Production Month (RPM) Challenge
(rpmchallenge.com), February Album Writing
Month (FAWM) (fawm.org), and National Solo
Album Month (nasoalmo.org).
|RPM lets you post music on the site’s
jukebox, where it will be heard by other
musicians and fans.
Each of these contests is free and has its
own rules, but in general, all of them challenge
musicians to record and produce an entire
album (usually 10 to 12 songs, or 35 minutes
of music) within one month. For RPM, this
includes creating the album art and mailing an
actual CD to RPM headquarters, postmarked
no later than noon on March 1.
The finished music and album are yours
after the challenge is over, and you can either
refine your music over time or release it and sell it via digital music stores. With RPM,
there’s also an option to post the entire album
on the site’s jukebox, where it will be heard
by other musicians and fans alike. Even better,
the contests often attract media attention. For
example, NPR often features selected music
from the RPM Challenge on their radio stations
or via their All Songs Considered website.
Competitive Songwriting Songwriting
contests can generate a lot of exposure for the
winner, and to a lesser extent, some attention
for just participating. One of the best known
is the John Lennon Songwriting Contest (jlsc.com). There’s a list of available contests at
Muse’s Muse (musesmuse.com/contests.html).
These competitions often charge entry fees,
so you should carefully consider which are
worth your money and effort. Many promise
awards for the winner, such as gear, cash, or
even record label contracts. But also look for
the ones that can bring you exposure for just
participating, as there are so few winners.
By using these challenges and contests to
spur your songwriting, you’ll not only help
generate exposure for you and your music,
you’ll also increase your creativity. Note that
the challenges generally try to get you to write
and record songs in a hurry, within a very tight
time frame, but there’s no reason for you to call the song “done” just because you entered it in a
contest. Take the best songs from the challenges
that you enter, and refine them into your next
album. That way, the fans that you’ve generated
by participating in the challenges will be the
natural audience for your final release.
Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan are
authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide (St.
Martin’s Griffin), now in its second edition.