Discover more from Matthew Moran: Music & Musings
Is Writing Songs Passé in the Age of AI?
The fear of saturation and obscurity
Spoiler alert: No… not for me. Writing songs is simply an outcropping of my imagination, a love of music, and creating things. More on this later.
I was reading Ted Gioia’s piece titled, How Many New Songs Are Released Each Day?
Spoiler alert #2: The number is more than 100,000 a day!!!
The 100k number does not include AI generated songs. That will increasing elevate the number.
Hal, write my a silly love song about a frog and a giraffe! And open the pod bay door, goddammit!
He makes a few interesting observations about this. I won’t cover them in detail as he has done a fine job of doing this and I am not adding anything to the points made. But, consider:
Digital song platforms, like Spotify, benefit from saturation. They are NOT in the artist development business. They really don’t care if you (the individual songwriter) builds an audience. You ultimately pay to get your songs on the platform and unless you have millions of streams, you aren’t making any money.
Songs are (or should be) about social connections. The influx of songs is not going to stop. The creative creator needs to focus on their creation, not the culture. In doing so, they create their small medieval village.
These are not his only points but they related to my view on saturation and streaming platforms.
The Saturated Talk about Saturation
I recall in 2008, a year or two after I started performing more earnestly, some songwriters and many cultural pundits were talking about saturation. It was the idea that there are too many songs, too many artists, too much product. The conclusion is that it made cutting through the din a daunting task.
I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now.
CLARITY: If we are honest, the market for art (music, drawings, paintings) is “saturated” in this sense. There is a reduced barrier to entry. Anyone with a computer, some musical instruments (or digital instruments), free or mostly free software, and some time can record a decentsounding recording.
YouTube videos and articles abound that can teach drawing, songwriting, photography, filmmaking, or any other creative endeavor you wish to pursue.
That’s a good thing! We can all explore our creative passions more easily.
I Have NO Competition
I’ve always maintained that I am NOT in competition - not with other songwriters/performers. I may be in competition with myself but mostly with my procrastination and lack of focus.
I’ve always felt that if I perform and create to my best ability my songs will garner attention from a number of people. My village, as it were.
I performed the other night - not my best performance but not dismal. I was getting over being sick. My voice was raggedy and my energy was off.
There weren’t a lot of people at the venue, listening to music. But there were a few. Two of them approached me and commented about my songwriting.
One woman leaned over to me and in a serious tone said:
“You write great songs! I appreciate good songwriting.”
A couple of others in attendance are probably not in my village.
That is the rub on saturation or maybe just on art, in general. People have a lot of options and make decisions on where their time, money, and attention go.
I do the same, so I cannot begrudge the listener.
I am only tasked with writing as well as I can, recording as well as I can, and performing as well as I can.
And sure, I may, occasionally, run ads to expand my reach or try to gain more exposure on social media.
But the miniscule budget I have to work with is unlikely to see me break “onto the scene” as it were.
Why do I write songs?
Words have always poured out of me. I’m chatty! I love storytelling. I love sharing ideas. I love exploring & hearing interesting ideas with engaged individuals.
I remember playing one of my early songs for a friend. I think I was in 9th grade. He said, “It’s sort of boring.”
In hindsight, it was. It’s a hard critique to hear but later I realized I was just playing the same chord progression over and over with little vocal tone variation. However, some of the lyrics from the song and a musical idea or two made it into Everyday Lies nearly 28 years later! Everyday Lies is one of my most requested songs and always a band favorite.
I feel I began writing better lyrics - more thoughtful - by my senior year of high school. Misty Blue was written at that time.
There’s a color of the lonely I know you’ve seen it too It clouds up your eyes Like the sun might do And the people walking by Don’t know what you’re going through You want to let them know that you’re Feeling Misty Blue
As I indicated in a prior newsletter, I began writing songs with greater intentionality in 2006. I’d written a smattering of songs in the years prior. My master song list has 12 songs listed between the 1980’s and 2005. Songs like, Misty Blue, Lady Love, Can’t Let Her Go, American Dream and few others. I suspect there are lost songs from those years but those are the ones I recall.
They’re good songs. A Nashville songwriter I know messaged me a year ago, suggesting I move to Nashville. He specifically mentioned American Dream (2002), as well as Making Peace with the War (2019), as songs I could brand myself with.
That’s a nice compliment to receive from a songwriter who’s placed songs with bigger artist and is a full-time songwriter & performer.
But moving to Nashville is not on the list of want to’s or can do’s right now. It’s financially unfeasible and geographically undesirable. Not a knock on Nashville, per se, but the Southwest and Northern California (Humboldt) is where I’d like to make my home.
Plus, it is 2023, and we can make music anywhere.
The bigger issue… MY bigger issue, is focusing my time and attention on music and producing songs. That is part of the reason I’m working on a Kickstarter campaign to fund high-end, professional production & marketing, of a few songs.
I mentioned Kickstarter a couple newsletters ago. I’m not really discussing that now. I’m still creating materials for that and doing some pre-launch work. However, if you are interested and want to see how I’m using Notion, a shared note-taking, outlining tool, I made a short video of the process.
Continued: Why do I write songs?
I could say that I write only for myself. That my art is purely an internal exercise in creativity, a private and personal endeavor where the joy of the process is its own reward.
But, if I said that, I’d be lying.
I enjoy the creative process. I love isolating myself with my guitar and my current songwriting notebook - a gift to me from my youngest child. I’ll share some images of that notebook below - specific images of songs I’ve written.
Interesting: I have not written a new song since December of last year when I completed, “Borrowed Time”.
It’s that first step, it’s that next step Convincing you that, it will always be Turning pages and next stages Slow rolling changes that you hardly see It seems I’m aging, I guess what I’m saying Life takes a hold and shakes years away like rain I’m not complaining, I’m just exclaiming Some tired old cliché about how blinking throws the game © 2022 - Matthew Moran
I have a few lyrical & musical snippets since then but nothing that I’ve sat down to work on.
In part, this is pragmatic. I’m not struggling with writer’s block. If I want to write, I’ll sit down and write. I’m not a believer in the cosmic or spiritual antennae school of writing. I don’t channel writing from some other place.
Writing is about synapses. It happens in your brain.
It isn’t that you cannot have moments of “magical” inspiration - where, in a fit, you write and everything comes out, fully-formed (or close to it) and pristine. I’ve had those moments for sure. I tend to chalk that up to good coffee but I don’t overthink it either. It happens or it doesn’t happen. C’est la vie!
Nope, I’m not having a bout of writer’s block or lack of creative ideas. I’m not writing at the moment because my plate is full. And my song list is full.
I have nearly 200 songs - good songs - that have yet to be produced in any meaningful way. So, I need to focus on producing the songs I have rather than add new songs to the mix.
New songs can fool you!
Ask a songwriter what song of theirs is their favorite and they will often reply with the last song they wrote. It’s new, for god’s sake. Shiny and tempting, it can cause you to disband with other projects just to spend time with your new mistress.
And she may be quite pretty. She might say all the right things.
But that other song - the one you’ve recorded 40 different guitar, bass, percussion, and vocal tracks to; the one who you realize - and likely always knew - needed a revision on that last verse; the song who’s become a little annoying and… dare I say it… boring…
Yeah, that song. You should complete it! I should complete it.
That’s why I have not written any new songs. They are potential distractions from what I want to do with music.
So, Matt, is writing songs passé in the age of AI?
I suppose that is a question for each songwriter or aspiring songwriter.
For me the answer is simple. No!
I don’t know where AI will go. I work in technology. My oldest child is specifically programming AI and machine learning. He probably doesn’t know where it all goes either.
Perhaps AI will, in the future, write ALL the greatest songs!
But, what it won’t do - what it cannot replace - is the joy of creation. The pleasure I get from sitting with my pen and notebook and writing a clever line or two.
The joy of alliteration, cadence, contrasting ideas, storytelling, composition, edits, refinements, etc.
The joy of performing and sharing my creations!
AI may write better songs than I, or anyone else, can ever hope to.
But, other talented songwriters have already been doing that for years.
Since I’m not in competition with other songwriters, I am similarly, not in competition with AI.
I write because I love writing. I share my writing because there are people who enjoy it - my tribe.
I write for me and to share it with my tribe.
So, if 100,000 songs are released tomorrow, maybe I’ll release number 100,001.
April 6, 2023
By decent I mean, in clarity and basic tonal quality. Decent writing, decent playing, and decent singing, while subjective (to a point) requires a bit more work.
Many of you have not subscribed to my YouTube channel. In fairness, I’m not creating the most compelling or consistent content but c’mon!!!!