How important is it to be prolific as a modern artist? What difference can that make for your music career?
We recently caught up with Icelandic singer-songwriter Eyvindur Karlsson to share about his experience.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Eyvindur Karlsson (easy Icelandic name for you to learn) and I’m a singer-songwriter from Iceland. In addition to recording and playing live at various venues around Iceland, my career has largely been focused on writing songs for theater. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of award-winning musicals and get to travel the world with some of those productions, to theater festivals in places like Austria, Czech and Monaco.
I write music in a variety of styles, from quirky Americana to show tunes, and have recently been trying my hand at instrumentals and more complex arrangements (I just finished recording and mixing a backing track for the play I’m working on with a 100-voice choir and a symphonic orchestra).
You can check out my music on my website.
I also host a songwriting podcast, and have various free resources for songwriters. You can check that out on my Strongwriting website.
2. Why is it important for songwriters to be able to write songs as fast as possible?
There are two main reasons. The first one is simple: The more songs you can write in the shortest amount of time, the bigger your margin of error. None of us write great songs every time, and it’s better to take more shots and have a lot of stuff to choose from. Also, the more you do it, the better you get. You can put it to the test with a free eBook I put together: Try writing a new song every day for 4 weeks. I guarantee you’ll be a better songwriter at the end of it.
The second reason is that this business of ours is a numbers game.
The music business has changed so much since I got started (which was a long, long time ago. I can still remember how that music used to make me smile… Oops, sorry…). When I first got into music, people were still buying albums, and it was possible to make a living playing original music in bars, even if you were completely unknown.
I think the biggest difference in today’s music business is the constant need for new content. Unless you rely primarily on touring (which can be fickle, as the COVID years have shown us), you need to be writing new songs all the time. Whether your focus is on streams, licensing, freelance composing, or songwriting (for film, video games, theater, etc.), it becomes a numbers game. The more you put out there, the more money you make.
My focus is mostly on freelance songwriting, but I also have a membership site where I release exclusive songs every month. I haven’t focused on streaming very much, but that’s changing now. So my career is 100% dependent on being able to write songs very quickly and put out a lot of material.
The quality obviously needs to be there, but ignore the quantity at your peril. In fact, quality comes with quantity – the more you write, the better you get.The quality obviously needs to be there, but ignore the quantity at your peril. Click To Tweet
3. How has being a fast songwriter helped your career?
I owe everything to it. Thing is, I used to be pretty leisurely about it in my early days. Then when I got my first paid job writing for theater I was ecstatic for about a day, and then reality hit. I now had to write to deadlines and deliver songs when the company needed them, not when my elusive muse decided to show herself. The prospect of staring at an empty page and trying to conjure up inspiration filled me with dread and it quickly became overwhelming. Suddenly my dream of becoming a paid songwriter was starting to feel painful, and my anxiety, self-doubt, and impostor syndrome started to set in.
However, I was fortunate enough to have been studying all kinds of business literature, and I realized that I could apply a lot of the time-management, confidence building, and productivity principles to my creative process, in addition to coming up with some creative mining tricks of my own that helped me get over that blank-page-syndrome and start writing on-demand.
Now I have more songs than I can get out there. Which is great, because whenever I’m approached for a song, I can almost always repurpose something I have lying around the shop. I have a huge database of finished or half-finished songs and musical ideas that I can Frankenstein into whatever my next project needs.
As it stands right now, I’m planning to release a lot more of my songs than I previously have to streaming platforms, and my backlog of songs is long enough that, using some of the most popular streaming strategies, I can release songs for years to come, even without writing anything new. (But of course, I will write tons of new stuff, so I should be good for a long while.)
4. What opportunities exist in songwriting musicians often aren’t, but should be aware of?
Well, I think most songwriters are aware of licensing – selling songs to films, TV shows, commercials or video games is one of the most lucrative prospects in the music business today. But there are some underrated ways to get your songs working for you.
One is, of course, theater. And it doesn’t have to be a huge production, either. I’ve gotten hired by amateur companies for tiny shows, because those productions tend to have the budget to hire outside professionals, such as directors, lighting and, yes, music. If you have any kind of theater scene in your vicinity, no matter how tiny, there are definitely opportunities there. And don’t write it off just because you think your music genre doesn’t lend itself to theater. I’m a director as well, and I can tell you that most directors love to try new things, so if you’re a ska-death metal artist, there might be a director out there just dying to try that out in their production.
I also think that songwriters should constantly be thinking outside the box. Consider collaborating with all kinds of different artists, not just musicians. Opportunities can arise from working across artistic boundaries. Years ago, I did a lot of work with painters and other visual artists, doing collabs and simply playing at their show openings, and it opened a lot of doors for me.Opportunities can arise from working across artistic boundaries. Click To Tweet
Lastly, there is a hidden gem for all songwriters, called the Melodica Testival. It’s a volunteer based festival that brings singer-songwriters together from around the world. Playing that festival in several cities I’ve gotten to know songwriters from all over the world, had great collaborations and greatly expanded my musical horizons. It’s something I think every songwriter should be aware of.
5. Why do you feel it’s important to challenge yourself as an artist?
If there’s one thing that I think can ruin songwriting careers, it’s The Comfort Zone. The only thing worse than writer’s block is stale songwriting. Getting stuck in a rut can be horrible, because after a while you might look at your output and hate it. Trust me, I’ve been there – there’s nothing worse than having slaved away to create something and being unhappy with the result, because it just feels boring.
So I try to challenge myself very regularly. I’ve tried lots of different ways, like challenging myself to write songs using just one chord, to write in different languages, to write in a different genre than I’m used to, and so on.
One of my favorite things to do, though, is a good time-based challenge. I like speed writing challenges, like writing a song in one hour (and if you’re very brave, performing it in public on the same day). And in fact, I put together a free eBook that walks you through writing one song every day for 4 weeks – which is a challenge that will force you to grow as a songwriter.
I guarantee that doing the challenge will make you a better (and faster) songwriter.
Every song you create is another opportunity for you to be seen, heard, and appreciated by a larger fan base.
We want to thank Eyvindur for his generous contribution. If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to say “thanks” to him on Twitter: @BadDaysMusic
Do you feel inspired to write more?
What’s the next step in your music career?
We look forward to seeing your comments!