What it takes to become a professional songwriter
In aspiring to become a professional songwriter, one must not only possess the ability to craft disarming melodies and weave meaningful lyrics, but also—perhaps more importantly—the guts to put them out for scrutiny.
“You may have a lot of compositions in your music chests, but what good are they if you keep them to yourselves? Share your songs and let them be heard,” Ryan Cayabyab told a room full of hopefuls at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, one of the recent stops of “Songwriting with the Maestro”—a series of free workshops spearheaded by the PhilPop Foundation.
Only by doing so, he said, would one be able to gauge and improve his or her work. “You can’t wait for someone to discover you. Push and promote yourself,” related Cayabyab, who was joined in the three-hour session by past contestants of the annual PhilPop songwriting competition.
“If you could have your enemies listen to your songs, that’s even better!” added Davey Langit, last year’s first runnerup. “It helps to have people with no qualms to tell you that your songs need more of this and that…or if they flat-out suck.”
Meanwhile, Toto Sorioso, the first runnerup in PhilPop’s 2012 and 2014 editions, pointed out that with the Internet leveling the playing field for budding musicians, there’s no more reason not to show off their work.
“Social media and various online platforms are on your fingertips—use them,” he said. “Aside from that, you can join competitions, where you’ll meet industry insiders and establish connections. Peddle your songs to record labels, if you must. Persevere.”
Making it into the music scene is a challenge in itself; staying in it is entirely another ball game, especially since the local industry isn’t as lucrative as it once was. And things are even tougher when you’re a composer who doesn’t perform, according to seasoned songwriter and PhilPop 2014 winner Jungee Marcelo.
“Be prepared to make compromises,” said Marcelo, who writes jingles to augment his income. “The dream is to pen hits; to write songs for the artists we admire; to write songs for our own satisfaction. But things simply aren’t always that way. We have to find gigs that would fund our passion projects.”
The one-day event focused on the basics of songwriting, with a jamming session to boot. “I wanted to do away with overly serious lectures. I believe that having a happy and interactive environment is more conducive to learning,” Cayabyab told the Inquirer.
The primary goal of “Songwriting with the Maestro”—a yearly initiative since 2012—is “to go around the country and encourage students and music lovers to express themselves through songs.”
After the PhilPop grand finals on July 23 at the Kia Theatre, the workshops, Cayabyab said, are set to continue outside Metro Manila—such as in Cebu, Davao, Pampanga, Ilocos Norte, Bohol, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro and Negros Occidental.
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