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Best Songwriting Tips: Stuck in a Rut?

Photograph of the blog post author, Jon



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The first year of being in a band can be one of the most exhilarating experiences. Having the utter joy of finding the chemistry of the group, forming the sound of the band, recording the first tracks and EP, and playing the first gigs are unbeatable feelings.

There is a momentum that follows bands, and it seems unstoppable at the time, writing, recording and securing regular venue appearances begin to feel easy. But what happens when the momentum slows?

It can be a daunting feeling when you’re suddenly not moving forward anymore. When getting around to recording new material no longer becomes a priority due to other commitments, regular gigs in the same venue begin to feel stale. In order to prevent this, a band must be willing to take risks, but calculating which risks are worth taking can be difficult.

With a music career spanning over 20 years, Canadian hip-hop star Abdominal recommends seven ways for bands and artists to avoid falling into a slump:

Songwriting Tips

Start With A Strong Hook

A strong hook is the foundation of a great song. It’s the first thing people will hear, and it’s the part that will stick in their minds. Start by writing a catchy phrase or a line that will draw people in and make them want to listen.

Pushing Into New Places

“It was just a matter of getting out there and meeting people with these sorts of events on and booking gigs for yourself. Doing that would snowball into other little opportunities here and there. That is what I did with most of the shows back then, I was just hustling as many shows as I could.”

Finding bookings in new cities means playing to new audiences and meeting promoters, which can be really rewarding and will help keep the band on the radar for the future. New bands cannot always get booked in bigger venues and might have to take on shows that will not make them any money.

Financial gain is not always the main focus of a gig. If the right group of people are at the gig and they will follow the band for several years, or there is a promoter who will put you in touch with a club owner that could be good to you.

Releasing an Album/EP 

“The first thing I ever put out was a cassette album called “Ab Flex.” That was back in ’98. It was a collection from the first few years that I was experimenting as a musician. When I put that tape out, it did feel like things were becoming more official, like having a tangible release.”

Paying for a studio recording of an EP or an album can help a band progress by having a product that can be sold or distributed to industry executives for feedback. Quality recordings will get more people listening and sharing your music and will help win over promoters for bigger gigs.

After releasing an EP or an album, it is very easy to get carried away with ambition and be disappointed if that outcome does not look likely. Abdominal likes to keep things in the present, and just enjoy the music he makes at the time.

“I definitely didn’t think that in 2015 I would be doing music. I’m not so good with thinking long term. I’m good with identifying my next goal, and then I’ll work really hard on that. Next thing you know, it has been 20 years and I’m still doing this and enjoying it. So I just take it as it comes.”

Songwriting Tips

Hiring an Agent/Manager

Abdominal appreciates the people that represented him and fought for his music and career.

“I am not the quickest, most prolific artist, my musical output might not be at the pace that labels and booking agents would expect from me. As a result, you don’t get the same industry response you do when you are the ‘It Thing’. At the same time, that’s when you find out who your real friends are. The people that stick with you when you’re in a low point.”

If you’re getting stuck in a rut because the band is getting to a point where you have to do everything personally it may become overwhelming. In this case, it might be time to look into acquiring an agent or manager.

They will use their contacts and knowledge of the industry to help with getting bigger gigs including the possibility of opening for bigger acts that require agency contact in order to be considered.

Representation can also be good for a band’s morale, knowing that there is someone working on your behalf to ensure the band succeeds.

Shooting a Video

“We shot the [first] video here in Toronto. It was a very crude video shoot, but it felt great. The Canadian music station picked it up and put it in rotation. That was really cool. As a rap fan, I would always watch the rap video show, so to see my mug up there on screen was a huge thrill.”

Music videos can help build a band’s reputation with the help of video-sharing sites, and social media. Facebook algorithms favour directly uploading a video over other posts, meaning a music video can have the best reach to new followers. It does not have to be an expensive production, just an idea that others can be entertained by.

A music video is a great marketing tool and can also help you get picked up locally, and people will be able to recognise your face from it. Video sites like YouTube can help artists by building crowds on the strength of a single video. Exciting and unique visuals to accompany a single can help the video go viral.

Working Every Angle

“Doing a gig is not just being up on stage, then retreating to your green room. You never know who is on the crowd, and when you get talking to people, there is always unexpected things that develop.

“My band and I played the Toronto Fringe Fest. We hung around, and the husband of the woman that booked us worked for the video games company; Ubisoft. He was just put in a position to book live musical talent to come in to the Ubisoft offices, and provide live entertainment for their staff.

“We ended up being the first band to play that concert just because he happened to catch us playing. It really is just talking to as many people as you can. I find it more interesting than hanging out in the green room. You would be amazed what just talking to people can lead to.”  

Bands with a very limited budget will have to put themselves out there in order to get ahead. Taking the time to talk to people costs nothing, and there are free networking events happening in some cities too. Working with all these forms of contact can lead to wonderful opportunities. You never know until you try.

Social Media

“On the last UK tour, we had 14 official shows lined up, but we had some nights off and I posted a little status up on my Facebook page saying; ‘we have nights off and we’d still like to play. If anyone wants to put us up, feed us and pay us, we would play home concerts.’

“We ended up playing 4 home concerts during the tour. They ended up being some of the most fun shows we did. Without Facebook and the internet, none of that would have been possible.”

Groups are in a unique position now, where they do not need to rely on record companies for exposure. They can create their own PR and post it on social media pages to their entire fan base instantly. With promoters and indie labels using social media to do their work as well, it has never been easier to make contacts.

Using social media to promote the band’s schedule, contacting promoters and industry representatives, and using your music to reach as large an audience as possible is essential.

Keep Calm & Believe in the Music

“You have to be your own number one supporter. You have to believe in yourself, and love what you are doing. Keep forging ahead and hopefully, everything else will follow.”

For a lot of bands, getting stuck in a rut is fairly common once the initial success from releasing EP(S) and struggle to build on the initial run of shows. Taking risks with new places to play, or new creative ventures are the best way to continue to build.

There are always going to be quiet spells in any musical career. For many, it is easy to call it quits, but it is always worth keeping musical aspirations alive as long as there is a passion for the art and a commitment to working hard at it.  

Closing Thoughts

Has this article been helping to all you songwriters out there and has it made you re-think how you approach song writing? We do hope so and we can’t wait to hear all your new songs! Keep going and believe in yourself. You can do this!


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