You are not a professional, it’s just a hobby right? Wrong!
I started this topic thinking this was a clean cut case to define, but actually the more I think about it, the harder it is to pin down. We might undertake a hobby for a bit of relaxation, take our minds off the daily tasks. We might have a hobby that is purely for fun, and makes us happy. For me all those things can apply to songwriting.
Okay, so what makes it more professional? Maybe it’s the intention, or the goals we are working towards?
When I was younger I considered leaving my steady job and learning the craft of audio recording and mixing. I decided against it in the end because I was worried that if I turned my music hobby into a job, maybe I would end up hating it. I don’t regret that decision, but perhaps I didn’t get real clarity on that until more recently.
When I started my year of songwriting mentoring with the Songwriting Academy in London I was still working full time in an unrelated career. I still am. What had changed was my intentions and seriousness towards songwriting. To the extent that I was investing in it with training to make myself better. Maybe that’s a sign of professionalism.
During that time, I was working with a producer, who in his past had worked with people like the Three Degrees. He once told me he was jealous of my full time job. What?!
From the outside the songwriting life can have the appearances of a glamourous life, but actually it can also be one where the opportunities can dry up in an afternoon, and the income could be all or nothing. It has a lot of highs and lows - big highs, but low lows. Unless you have become very successful, the reality for most artists and songwriters is a life of flux and some uncertainty.
For every magical song that is released to the public, behind the scenes has been a lot of work and effort to create it, hone it, record it, and then get it released, market it, and just get it heard. That might include lots of interviews, lots of emails, lots of travelling to people that might be able to help it out or reach new ears. Thats a lot of activity that isn’t always natural to a creative soul.
We don’t have to do this, we could create songs in our bedrooms and private spaces and be happy with just that. The sharing of songs is where we allow the magic to occur. Somehow music reaches people in ways just words cannot. Although that can also be a scary idea, it is also where great reward is. Knowing that your song helped someone express something / helped them move on with a difficult time in their life, or even just evoked a memory - that is what songwriting is really all about. One human reaching out to another.
So partly by choice, but more from happenstance I do now have the balance of a steady income from a regular job, which although limits my time for creativity, also allows time to be creative without any temptation to sell out to do what earns the most, or be popular because that’s what people want.
I encourage you to find the balance that works for you, always check your activities with the questions:
Is this fun?
Is this me making the decision to do this, or some external pressure?
Next time: When your filing system is a Plastic carrier bag