Here’s Why Age Doesn’t Matter In The Music Industry

Sometimes I wish I did more when I was a younger musician. And now I’m almost 30 and haven’t yet found the “success” I’m going after.

Music business
image via Amelia007 – DeviantArt

In hindsight, it’s so easy to see how I could have done more or done better.

I put out my first release when I was 19 years old, and I wonder what I’ve been doing all this time. But I’m learning that age doesn’t matter in the music industry.

There’s a lot of pressure to “make it” as a young artist (sidenote: you define what “making it” looks like for you). With the Justin Biebers and the Shawn Mendeses of the world, we musicians can feel that if we haven’t found our success by age 21, we’re through.

But let me point out some big-named musicians who found success later in life…

Leonard Cohen released his first album in 1967 when he was 33 years old. On that album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, was his hugely successful “Hallelujah.” In 2010, when he was 76 years old, he won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bill Withers released his debut album, Just As I Am, in 1971 when he was 33 years old. It included  “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Better Off Dead,” and  “Hope She’ll Be Happier.”

Sheryl Crow, after teaching for several years and playing in bands in her spare time, recorded her first album when she was 29 years old, but then shelved it because it sound too “slick.” Then she started playing with the band The Tuesday Music Club in the early 90’s. On their album Tuesday Night Music Club was the hit “All I Wanna Do.” And then she didn’t release her solo album until her mid-30’s.

There are so many other musicians who have found success later in life, including Andrea Bocelli, 2 Chainz, and Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz and the Tantrums.

I’m saying this to myself too: don’t let your age scare you out of doing what you love, whether you’re still in high school, approaching retirement, or somewhere in between.

Just do what Sheryl does:

How To Get Better At Songwriting

For those of us who love songwriting, we find it frustrating. Sometimes it’s just the worst.

How songwriting feels sometimes

It’s difficult, but practice is what makes us better at spitting rhymes and stringing together melodies.

Professional lyric and songwriters didn’t start there — they, like a lot of us, started as amateurs. So with that in mind, here are four tips on how to become a pro at writing song lyrics.

Study The Pros

Leonard Cohen

The greats learned from the greats, and so should you. Study the best of the best, print off their lyrics, break down their phrasing, rhyming, imagery, and storytelling. Use their techniques.

Some pros you could start studying are Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and John Lennon — these guys knew how to put words together in a beautiful way.

It’s time to become a student again and stay one until you’re done writing songs (which should be never).

Copy The Pros

Bob Dylan

Austin Kleon is an artist and author who wrote a book called Steal Like An Artist. The whole idea of the book is to take ideas from others (i.e. the pros), add your own spice, and create something of your own.

For example, if you, just for fun, rewrite “Like A Rolling Stone” by Dylan, you’ll get a better feel for how he structures his words, how he describes things, and his storytelling process.

Then jot down what you’ve learned and try using the same methods on your own song.

Be Consistent Like The Pros

Paul Simon

Malcolm Gladwell, a best-selling, deep-thinking author who does meticulous journalistic research, writes in his book Outliers  that “ten thousand hours [of practice] is the magic number of greatness.”

He cites Bill Gates, who started coding as a teenager, and The Beatles, who played an extremely high number of gigs before becoming stars in the States.

The point is, practice songwriting like heck. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. You’re not born amazing, you have to earn it.

RELATED: How To Write A Song In 5 Simple Steps


Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway writes in his book A Moveable Feast, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” And, boy, that’s true.

The first thing you put down on paper is not always the best. The first draft is almost never the last. Rewriting your lyrics is part of the songwriting process.

I first wrote a version of this article for iSing Magazine