Looking back on twenty-five plus years of writing songs, it’s a lot easier for me to connect the dots now and see that the things I was doing years ago would eventually bear fruit. I can safely say that nothing ever moved as quickly as I thought it would and, yet, I’m constantly surprised at the ways that my long-forgotten efforts have come around to generate royalty income. All that to say, it would have saved me a lot of frustration knowing that getting up every day and working on my craft would end up paying off…on its own schedule, not mine. Here are a few specific reasons to stay patient in the pursuit of a songwriting career.

Patience for Songwriters

1. You’ll enjoy the process more

There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for something to happen when it’s beyond your control. For example, you’ve read a listing on a pitch sheet looking for songs for a “last-minute” opportunity and they have to have them right away. The reality is that nothing actually happens “right away” and everything is “last minute.” So after submitting your song, instead of constantly scanning your emails and sleeping with your phone, simply put a note in your calendar to follow up with an email in a week or two (not before) and forget about it. I know this is easier said than done but it will keep you sane. By the way, the easiest way to forget about one thing is to be working on something else.

In other words, you should have as many irons in the fire as possible so that you’re not waiting on any one thing to happen. By “irons in the fire,” I mean looking for other pitch opportunities, new co-writers and any one of a million things that you can be doing to have success in the music business. If you’re patient, your day to day will be a series of small steps and tasks that will keep you focused and productive without allowing you to linger on any one thing for too long. Also, that way when something does come through you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

2. You’ll keep your perspective

Given that there is absolutely no such thing as a “quick buck” in the music industry, your best bet is to think about why you’re writing songs in the first place. If it’s only for the money, you’re in for a rough road. Even the most successful songwriters have put in years of unpaid work before the money began to flow. If, on the other hand, you write because you can’t help it and you love the feeling of putting something uniquely your own into the world AND you also hope to be financially successful, then your day to day will be the pursuit of something meaningful to you that also has the potential to generate income. If you’re patient, you have a much better chance of keeping that perspective while you’re pursuing your dream of success.

3. You’ll build better industry relationships

We all know that relationships with industry insiders (publishers, managers, record label execs, etc.) are highly prized for the connections and potential opportunities they bring. However, just like any relationship, it’s extremely difficult to build something of substance quickly. If you’re patient and don’t try to force feed your music to every person in the industry at every opportunity, you stand a much better chance of developing the kinds of contacts that move you ahead in your career. These relationships take years to develop (not five minutes at the bar of the hotel at an industry conference). What if instead of launching into a ten-minute, spoken-word bio the next time you meet someone in the music industry, you tried asking them what they’re working on? Learn a little more about them and, in time, if you’re doing great work, they’ll get to know about you, too.

Patience for SongwritersBy not treating every interaction with someone in the industry as a do or die situation, you’ll feel less pressure to make something happen immediately and enjoy getting to know them. Then, in time, you’ll have someone receptive to your music when there’s an opportunity. Here’s a small tip. It’s the administrative assistants and receptionists of today that will be the heads of film/TV departments tomorrow. Don’t ignore these folks in your search for someone more powerful who can help you. Take your time, build your industry relationships slowly and organically and watch what happens.

4. It’s out of your hands anyway

While there is a lot you can (and should) do on your own behalf every day, the music business goes at its own speed no matter what you do. Songs, even “undeniable” hits, routinely take years to find a home after they’ve been written. The journey from the creation of a song to a royalty generating copyright is as mysterious to me now as it was when I wrote my first song. So, given that it’s out of your hands once you’ve written, demoed and pitched your song, why not be patient and keep filling the pipeline with new songs and pitches. Develop your craft, write as much as you can and one day you’ll look back to see you’ve got a catalog of great songs where some of the older ones are actually generating income.

I once heard a songwriter say that he wrote one of his hits in “three hours and twenty-five years.” In other words, while the song took three hours to write, it was his twenty-five years of patiently refining his craft and developing his career that made it happen.


As long as you’re not planning on being a songwriter for this week only, take a deep breath, work on your songs and your career a little every day and enjoy the ride. You’ll be amazed in a few years when you look back and see how far you’ve come.

Learn how to navigate your songwriting career.

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9 responses to “Four Reasons To Be Patient With Your Songwriting Career”

  1. Hi Cliff,
    Always great advice and I read all articles that have your name on it.. Relative to this article, I’ve been working on one particular song for the past 11 years. I have learned how to re-write the song, countless of times, added new lyrics, and a new arrangement, and have seen it grow and grow over the years. Combined with that I invested my time into learning the engineering aspect of recording in both Protools and finally now in Logic Pro. I cannot tell you the pleasure I’ve derived from this project, as well as facing the frustrations of not accomplishing the sound I wanted the song to have in its final stage.
    I am finally satisfied that I have a song that will mean something, not only to me, but to others around the world. Soon I’ll be releasing it, as I am currently “mastering” the song. From here in 2016, I will have it, and a few other “gems” on my pending website called, brothersbogaardt.com The name of the song I’ve worked on for so long is called “You are my Essence of Life”
    And I am thrilled to be able to work on other projects as well.
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience in your articles.
    Bill Bogaardt & The Brothers Bogaardt

  2. Andy Lehrer says:

    Cliff, thanks as always for seasoned insights. Bill, good for you for keeping at it. Haven’t heard your song and wondering if your title were, “Essence of Life” or better yet , “Essence” you may create more intrigue and interest through parsimony and a dab of mystery. All best with your pursuits.

    KInd regards,
    -Andy Lehrer

  3. Cliff..you made my day!! Thank you from a beautiful Sweden dressed in green.
    Best regards Kerstin Stilling

  4. Brian Kirkpatrick says:

    A synopsis of your excellently presented message can be expressed in a simple phrase I repeat to myself frequently:

    “Concentrate on action…not results.”

    I’m not sure where I first heard this little gem but I think it was from a fellow twenty years my junior at the time who was my sales manager during a year of hell selling life insurance. It took some time to recover from the brain damage inflicted by that experience but he was a good buddy and one very smart young man. An outstanding person I will never forget!

    “3 hours and twenty five years!”

    Yes indeed! We all must keep in mind that it ain’t the 60’s! 😁

  5. I’ve been a writer for 40 years. I began in 1978. I had my first single in 1978 by a young female artist in Australia. I believe too Aborigines bought a couple of copies on a drunk Saturday night. In 1979, I had a single which charted but the artist was on an indie label trying to make a comeback so it didn’t go far. In 1980, Reba cut a song of mine on her sophomore album with Polygram, but it was not released as a single. In 1987 almost 10 years after I started my writing career, I had my first #1 with “Whiskey, If You Were A Woman.” It was #1 In Canada & #2 In the U.S. My second big single took 16 years to be a hit. It was recorded twice prior to its being recorded by The Dixie Chicks in 1997. The song was written about the same time that I wrote my first big hit which was in 1980. So from the time I wrote that song till the time it got cut it was almost 17 years. That song was “Tonight the Heartaches on Me.” I was told everything negative about that song that you could hear it’s too old timey, no one’s doing Honky Tonk, heartache’s songs don’t sell anymore, no one’s cutting ciuntry anymore, etc. I have not had another hit since the 1990s and we are now into 2018, but I have had some singles by independent artists, most were not in the mainstream. The songs were cut by artists in Europe and in Texas. I did have a number one in the Netherlands on a song I wrote over 20 years ago. Songwriting is definitely something you have to love and enjoy doing. There is no guarantee of success, but I believe the success is the enjoyment that you get out of it and the enjoyment that a lot of other people get out of it even if it’s not on the charts. And I am only a Lyricist I do not play an instrument, and I do not sing. I have written a book called “Heartaches, Hits, & Other Stories,” which you can only find on my website at http://www.heartacheshitsandotherstories.com. I hope you will check it out.

  6. Glenn Lestz says:

    Thanks Cliff. I needed that.

  7. Tommy BirKes says:

    Patience, patience, patience. So true.

  8. Rick Diaz says:

    Wonderful story! Everyone can learn from there this! I’ve heard this before, Enjoy the journey, that’s your prize!!!

  9. Jacob McSharma says:

    Wow, I really enjoyed this one, Cliff! I am a fan of this philosophy and have found it’s just plain better for your mental health – and your craft! Your brain will have a much more difficult time being creative if the majority of its resources are spent combating the stress of trying to “make it”.

    Personally, I have found diversifying your pursuits to be incredibly helpful in this regard. I spend a season working in more film-oriented, then shift back to more intentional songwriting pursuits. This additional outlet has no doubt released the pressure valve for my creativity, and – most importantly – allows me to ENJOY the process!

    Hope this helps someone else!

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