Are you worried that your songs aren’t any good? Is there any way to know “for sure” whether you have a knack for songwriting?
In today’s guide, I want to discuss some outside metrics that will help you determine whether or not your music is “good”. We’ll also look at some tips on why you may be questioning your ability.
- A Big Fat Disclaimer
- How Do You Know If You’re A Good Songwriter?
- The 3 Objective Signs That You’re A Good Songwriter
- Why Do I Think My Music Is Bad?
- What Should I Do If I Don’t Like My Music?
A Big Fat Disclaimer
Songs (like any art form) are subjective and every person’s musical taste will differ. Even if one person says your music is utter trash, a different person may cherish it to death. I don’t enjoy Beyonce’s music, but millions of people eat it up like candy.
Also, just because a song doesn’t get big does not mean it’s automatically a bad song. There are many other factors (like marketing, social media algorithms, sheer luck) in a song getting popular on the internet.
Suffice to say…there’s no one true quantifier of quality for music. But, in this article, we will look at some ways you can gauge consumer sentiment of your songs and, thereby, songwriting level.
Lastly, beginners should not expect their songs to be amazing from the get go. It takes several years of practice to get good at anything. If you feel like you’re music is bad and you’re a newb, then you probably need more time and practice before making a definitive determination of quality.
How Do You Know If You’re A Good Songwriter?
You’ll know that you’re a good songwriter if people listen to your songs intentionally. That is the most objective confirmation you can get on your music. I’ve read websites and forums where people say things like:
- “a good songwriter can teach a lesson with their lyrics”
- “a good lyricist can expresses feeling in a way that others can easily understand”
And other subjective feel-good junk like that.
And, sure, having a good grasp on metaphors, phonaesthetics, literary devices, etc. are signals that you have skill as a writer…but even a highly-trained writer can make awful songs. And, likewise, a total beginner can pump out an absolute hit.
The realest sign that your songs are bangers is when people listen to your music repeatedly (or share it) without you asking them to.
How other people (listeners) receive your music is the greatest indicator of your talent. Like I mentioned, some may interpret the ability to “convey emotions” or “teach a lesson” as signs of songwriting skill.
But, frankly, a well-written song can be as simple as pie. You don’t need to master irony, allegory, rhyme to be talented as a songwriter. You just need to write songs people actually want to hear!
The 3 Objective Signs That You’re A Good Songwriter
To put this into more concrete terms, here are 3 ways to determine if your songs are good (or not) based on the way people react to them:
- People complement your songs
- Replays, shares, and subs
- A healthy bounce rate on your published tracks
1. Do People Like Your Songs?
If people are enjoying your music, they will express their enjoyment in a few ways, including:
- Liking the track or video on whatever platform they are listening to it, and
- Leaving a comment
You’ll know that a song is quality when strangers are willing to say nice things about it. Getting compliments or encouragement from people you know shouldn’t be considered in this context.
But if random users come across your song and take the time to like or comment, then there’s got to be someone about the track that they find good.
2. Are You Getting Replays, Shares, and/or Subscribers?
Furthermore, a good song is more likely to get played and shared more. Here are a few numbers you can monitor on your releases to see if people enjoy your music:
- New subscribers
On many major platforms (Spotify, YouTube, etc.) you can see how many times a track was played and you can see how many unique listeners you have. I know that CDBaby shows this information in your dashboard if you distribute with them.
Seeing your total number of unique listeners (i.e. individual people) versus your plays will give you an idea about what songs are being listened to repeatedly. If you’ve got 50 listeners but your newest single has 300 plays, then some of these people are probably replaying the track.
That probably means they enjoy it.
Likewise, a song that is getting shared on social media (retweeted on Twitter, reblogging on Tumblr, etc) is a sign that those listeners really liked your song. They are expanding energy to not only listen to it, but tell other people about it.
Lastly, watch for an increase in your subscribers. Are the number of people subscribed to your media account increasing as views go up on a song(s)? That probably means listeners consider your music to be quality. They want to see what else you got, and they followed you to get notified about new releases.
That is a beauteous indicator of listener confidence in your songwriting capabilities.
3. What’s Your Bounce Rate?
A bounce rate is how long a person listens to your song before leaving the track or skipping to another song/video. The length of time that a person spends on your song can indicate how “good” the listeners thought it was.
If someone thinks your music is good, they are more likely to listen for a longer amount of time.
Obviously, there are other factors that can lead to a high bounce rate (short listening time) that don’t necessarily indicate your song was considered “bad” by the listener. Some of these include the listener:
- Just prefers a different genre than the style of your song,
- Was doomscrolling through tracks without paying much attention to the quality,
- Wasn’t in the mood for that type of song (i.e. didn’t want to hear a sad song while they are energetic, etc)
Bounce Rate on YouTube
If you post songs on YouTube (as album art tracks, lyric videos, whatever), then you can monitor your bounce rate in the creator studio dashboard.
- Go to the “Video Analytics” of a track video in question
- Look at the “Audience retention” section
- If you don’t see it on the analytics overview, then click over to the “Engagement” section
Bouncing on Spotify
As far as I know, you can’t view bounce rate in the Spotify artist’s dashboard. I haven’t found any such feature at least.
But Spotify only counts a stream as a legit play if the listener sticks around for at least 30 seconds. This does not give you an accurate bounce rate on it’s own (because you don’t know how many people skipped before 30 seconds).
But, if you are sending people to your song’s Spotify page from a social media platform or a linktree page, then you can approximate how many people sat through 30+ seconds of your song compared to how many people clicked the link to your Spotify page.
Why Do I Think My Music Is Bad?
There are a lot of reasons why you may feel like your songs are bad, and your personal feelings are so subjective that it’s hard to quantify them with exact causes of your discontent.
But I’ve been there before, feeling like my music sucks (I was just there this morning LOL).
Here are the most common reasons we interpret our own songs to be bad. Oftentimes, we:
- Compare our music to professional tracks,
- Suck at mixing and mastering (which can distract from even the best lyrics and melodies),
- Listen to our own songs too many times (which causes complacency),
- Use cheap samples or lack proper sound design (i.e. picking the right tone for a guitar, crafting a pleasant-sounding synthesizer preset, etc.),
- Have good song ideas but poor execution (maybe your vocals are iffy or you aren’t a good guitar player),
- Generally lack self-confidence in our lives, which leads us to doubt any and all task that we attempt
What Should I Do If I Don’t Like My Music?
If you suspect that your music is utter trash, then I would recommend taking the following steps to get an objective, outside view about your songs:
- Take a short break from listening to (or working on) music so your brain can reset,
- Stop comparing your music to professional releases
- Ask for the opinions of others who you think will provide honest feedback,
- Post your music under a pseudonym and monitor the results
1. Taking A Break
As I mentioned in a previous article, you can get fatigued by even the best song if you listen to it too much.
So take a short break from anything related to your music for a day or two (or ten). Don’t listen to your songs, don’t mix anything, and don’t check your social media stats.
Let your brain reset and forget what your tracks sounded like. That way, the next time you do listen to them, they will sound fresh.
2. Stop Comparing
Quit expecting that your home-made songs will sound like the pro mixes released by major labels.
Yes, I’ve heard so many people say that technology allows us to achieve a “major studio sound” inside a laptop. But that’s not quite true, because:
- Professionally-treated studio rooms will capture way better audio than your basic AF bedroom,
- Expensive equipment will still sound better than the bargain bin stuff that was “recommended on Amazon” because it uses higher-quality components,
- Professional studios tend to have professional mixers and engineers who have decades of experience and no amount of modern technology can replace the ears of a seasoned sound guy
As home producers and bedroom songwriters, we can get close but will never fully achieve a professional studio sound. If you have a subconscious (or even conscious) expectation that your songs will sound studio polished, then you need to STOP IT! You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
Your songs don’t have to be polished and pristine to be enjoyed. Lo-Fi is a very popular genre, and I’ve seen low-quality songs recorded with a phone that got millions of views online.
3. Ask for Feedback
You could ask other people for their opinion about your songs. Specifically, try to coax their feedback on one or more of the following components:
- Is this the kind of music that you would listen to?
- Do you think this song sounds more “good” or more “bad” compared to other songs in this style/genre that you’ve heard?
- Is there anything specific that you like (the lyrics, the voice, the melody, a guitar tone, the drums, etc.)?
- Is there anything specific that doesn’t sound right (a poor mix, too much distortion, flat singing, etc.)?
Family and friends are a mixed bag for getting reviews. Some will be overly-positive so not to hurt your feelings. Others just won’t care and will shrug off whatever track you throw at them without actually listening (like every person I’m related to).
You could try posting your track on a subreddit or forum and asking for opinions. This again is a mixed bag, because many of these people won’t care enough to give you an honest opinion.
An experienced musician mentor would be a great source of feedback if you can find one. Someone who understands what can make or break a song and who’s willing to give you constructive criticism.
Or you can just post your songs online and watch for any positive or negative comments that come your way, like I’ll mention in the next section…
4. Use A Pseudonym
Posting your music online can be a harrowing experience for those with self-doubt. But, sometimes, the only way of knowing your skill level is by letting your songs into the wild.
I’ve talked about this method in my guide about perfectionism, but it bears repeating.
Here’s a way to post and promote songs without the risk of forever staining your personal honor:
- Create a pseudonym that isn’t connected to your real name or regular social media accounts,
- Post songs under that pseudonym,
- Don’t share these tracks with your family or friends unless it’s to say “hey, I randomly found this cool song online…what do you think?”
Now keep in mind that it’s not a foolproof method of getting feedback. There is so much content on the internet that even the best song ever written could get buried by the algorithm.
But it may be better than sitting alone in your room with hundreds of unfinished songs and a feeling of internalized unworthiness.
I hope this article provided some insight into your songwriting concerns. If you’re still on the path of songwriting and musicianship, then here are a few more guides to consider reading: