The Power of Principles, Part III

by Mary Dawson
The Internet Writing Journal, June 2001
Principle 3: The Credibility Factor

So far in our series on The Power of Principles, we have learned that the Music Industry is not looking for talent only, but for success (Master's Maxim) and that in order to be truly successful, we must be able to connect with the hearts and emotions of millions of listeners through our music. This requires us to have such a mastery of our music skills that we can focus on the communication rather than on the mechanics of songwriting and/or performing. (The Greer Guideline)

But there is another key element that must be present in our lives and in our music in order for us to achieve the success we are striving for -- that element is simple credibility. The word, credibility, basically means that a person, product or institution can be trusted to be what they seem -- that they are believable and capable of delivering what they promise. Credibility is clearly related to the standard of excellence that we demonstrate in performance and writing, but, in my opinion, credibility goes a few steps beyond mere excellence and must be present for true success to find us.

Think about how many talented people you have met along the road in your musical journey. If your experience is anything like mine, you will be able to name dozens of amazingly gifted songwriters and artists, most of whom will never be recognized outside their immediate local audience. It's not because they have failed to work hard or that they have been unable to really master their craft -- or even that their talent is "less than" the talent of nationally or internationally known stars. It is simply that they lack credibility. They have not demonstrated to the Music Industry or to the general public that they are as accomplished or even more accomplished than other recognized artists. Their light of talent is being hidden under a bushel of anonymity.

Do you recognize yourself yet? I myself can say that I have truly "been there and done that." In the early days of my own career I learned that in order for my songwriting to reach a national standard, I would have to work very hard and I was willing to do so. I put in my time...I paid my dues...I kept studying great songs and songwriters...and little by little I began to realize that my writing was becoming really good! I was mastering my skills and I was becoming able to objectively measure my work. I knew that not all my songs were "national quality," but many were -- they were simply great songs that the world needed to hear. But I was still a Nobody in the Grand Scheme of Things (otherwise known as the Music Industry). I was good, but nobody knew it! I needed credibility.

As I pondered this problem, I began to observe some very interesting facts about the matter of credibility. First, while excellence relates specifically to the mastering of skills, credibility relates more to us as a whole person -- a total package. If a musician has other attributes in "the package" besides music, overall potential for success is increased and believability grows. For example, the fact that Madonna can dance and act -- as well as write and perform music -- adds to her total credibility factor. The more entries on the plus side of your ledger, the better the chances that you will be thought of as a "good investment" -- both by music consumers and by the Music Industry.

A second factor I have found to be extremely intriguing is simply that not all the talents in your "package" have to be music-related to build credibility. For example, there are several aspiring songwriters I have mentored over the years who are medical doctors in their daily lives. If there were an opportunity for them to "make it" as songwriters or singers in the Music Industry, they would probably give up their medical practices in a New York Minute and go into music full-time, but for now they are making their living as doctors. Now while it is absolutely true that medicine has little or nothing to do with musicianship, the title of Doctor carries with it a great deal of respect in our culture. So when a Music Executive sees a return address label on a demo submission packet with the title of Doctor on it, he will probably be more likely to open it. It subconsciously conveys that the sender is a bright, intelligent and professional person who is multi-faceted and capable of many skills. The small title of Dr. has added a ton of credibility to the songwriter.

You may be saying to yourself, "Well, I'm sure no doctor, and I don't have any talents other than my music." I bet that isn't so! Why not take a couple of hours to just sit down and list the "credits" in your ledger? Start with what you enjoy doing because it is usually true that what you really enjoy is what you are good at doing. Your skills may be in arts and crafts, cooking, website design, fashion design, sound engineering or a host of other talents. List them on your Success Resume. Compliments you receive from other people may be indicators of talents and abilities that will add to your overall credibility. Take credit for your expertise in those areas. If you find it difficult to identify your talents, ask a friend to help you point them out. Don't be guilty of false humility! For years, I minimized many of the things I was good at doing because I thought they were insignificant or did not relate to my primary field which was songwriting. Now, I take credit for anything I can without exaggerating the truth.

The third element in the Credibility Factor is simple survival and perseverance. The Entertainment Highway is littered with the carcasses of aspiring stars who were here today and gone tomorrow. They may have been very gifted and may have had a host of other assets, but they simply didn't "go the distance." They just burned out and vanished from the scene altogether. If you are determined to succeed as a songwriter or artist, one of the greatest things you can do for yourself is to keep on keeping on. You may pitch your songs to music moguls who dismiss and reject them, but when you keep coming back year after year with more and more great songs...your credibility zooms up the scale and your stock value increases. Keep in touch with whatever contacts you have in the Music Business. Send out a regular newsletter listing your accomplishments. Let them know that you have no intention of going away!

In summary, excellence must not be applied only to your music. It should be a way of life in everything you do. When you are at work as an advertising executive, a nurse, an accountant or a mechanic, approach every day and every task with an inquisitive mind and a desire to master it. When you develop a hobby or sport, seek to excel in it. Stick with things. Don't give up. With every success….with every new skill...you are developing a total package that pulses with greatness and can't help but attract the attention and admiration of others. And that is the heartbeat of success!

As my husband always says: "It's a pretty poor dog that won't wag his own tail!' It may be time for you to start "wagging" a little.

**From her earliest childhood years writing simple songs and poems with her father, through her twelve years as an overseas missionary, to her present, multi-faceted career as an author, lyricist/songwriter and conference speaker, Mary has always been adept at using words to communicate her heart to others. She is the President of CQK Records & Music of Dallas, Texas, a company which creates and produces songs in a panorama of musical styles for a variety of audiences, She is also the host of "I Write the Songs," a nationally syndicated radio talk show, especially created to inspire and instruct the more than 25 million aspiring songwriters in the U.S. "I Write the Songs" is broadcast over the Internet. Mary is a frequent public speaker and seminar lecturer on songwriting. She is a Contributing Editor for The Internet Writing Journal ®, and is a regular columnist for Independent Songwriter Web Magazine. Mary's commitment to discovering and mentoring talented new songwriters has given her extensive experience in song analysis through adjudicating songwriting competitions and conducting songwriting workshops across the country and around the world. Because of her role as president of an independent music company, she is also well qualified to instruct aspiring songwriters on the various business aspects of the music industry. She is married and a mother of four. She resides in the Dallas area. You can reach Mary at: mary@cqkmusic.com

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