File Under: Creating and Making Your Music

This article is part of the Creating and Making Music series: how to produce more music for the new streaming world.

This week we're continuing our ongoing Creating and Making Music series with the third and last installment about generating ideas for songs. Releasing a steady stream of music throughout the year can drive steady engagement, grow your fanbase, and make more money with music in today's internet-driven music industry.

As we noted two weeks ago, the internet and the new streaming world rewards consistent and regular releases of music. This means every musician needs to focus on generating enough songs to create episodic releases of their output. This can be singles, remixes, EPs, and other music drops that eventually lead to album with many of these songs.

Here are four more idea-generators we've pulled together to help you beat writer's block and create new music:

7. Steal from yourself.

Do you have older music that's been sitting around? Pull it out of the archives and co-write with yourself. Take the song to another place. Update it. Fix the pieces that make you cringe. That's exactly what we did when we decided to take on project and come up with 365 songs. We raided everyone's old demo tapes (and yes, some of them were so old they were on cassette tapes.)

For example, our song about Leap Year came out of a guitar riff we'd nearly forgotten called "Fragment 34." We discovered some of these unfinished licks, riffs, demos, and ideas would re-inspire us. All of a sudden we heard a new melody or could combine it with a more recent fragment of an idea to grow it into a completely new song. Some ideas just needed new lyrics. And yes, many went immediately right back into the tape box as hearing them reminded us they shouldn't have heard the light of day!

8. Collaborate and bring in fresh ideas.

We found one of the best ways to get creating was to collaborate with others. We'd hold weekend songwriting sessions almost every Saturday and sometimes as many as five other musicians or lyricists would show up. This was the perfect place to present our older or smaller ideas and fragments we were working on and bounce it off another person. Often this led to some of us huddled by the piano or over a guitar, writing the song right then and there as the other person who hadn't heard the idea became inspired.

This is how our song Coffee was created. A couple of our band members headed out of the studio to get some coffee, but before they left told the drummer and sax player to "write a song before we get back". As soon as the door shut, the two looked at one another and said, "Well, I guess that means we better hurry up and write a song about coffee." The pressure to have one written before the rest of the band got back only heightened the creativity. And, when the group returned, the two had a new song, just as promised.

9. Use "Yes and...", not "No" or "Yes, but…"

The #1 rule of improv is to always accept what the other players say when you're on stage. If your co-improvisor says you're on the moon, then you're on the moon -- even if your original idea for the sketch was to be on the beach. Creativity, brainstorming, and innovation thrive in environments where everyone accepts everything and leans into any ideas presented. Don't judge when you're creating. Shut off the editor; that voice in your head that wants to take over. The one that says "no" or "yes, but". If you want to be as creative as possible with other people, then you need to accept every idea, explore it, and actually, play with it. It's in the later stages, when the song is written you can bring back your internal editor, but not at this delicate creative stage.

10. SongFight!

Nothing drives getting things done like a purpose and a deadline. That's where SongFight! comes in. Similar to album challenge sites, SongFight! is a site that challenges musicians to write, record, and publish a song within a week. But don't get lost in the Fight! part, it's actually a device to spur creativity. Each week they post a word or phrase which has to be in the song. Then, you have a week to create, record, and submit it. Once the week is up, the songs are published on the site for the community to listen and judge the entries to vote on their favorites. Plus, they discuss each week's "battle" on their forum.

During, our band used the site strictly for song idea inspiration and ended up with a few songs that way, some of which we later developed into full-blown recordings. We never "won" with the songs we submitted, but then that wasn't our goal. And, sometimes we wrote and recorded songs based on their phrase, but instead of submitting it, just built it up and released it on our own, like this one. And, if you're into even more convoluted challenges beyond a phrase or word, check out the SongFight! inspired site, SongFight! Songs Idea Generator!

Now that you're armed with ten solid idea-generators, it's time to get writing. Try out one of these ideas this week to get your creative juices flowing. After all, the more music you create, the more likely you'll create some fantastic ones. And, the more fantastic ones you have, the more you can release throughout the year to grow your fanbase and make money with music.

Challenge: Try one of these techniques for your own music this week. And, if you didn't try one of these from the other two articles, then add all of them to the mix and make at least one of them happen.

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Photo credit: David Santaolalla