April 16, 2017 Jotham Oakley

Of Songs and Spreadsheets

Writing a song is still one of the things I love to do most in life, but it’s also become something that I monitor and assess more intentionally than before.

I’ve recently stepped up how much effort I give to my songwriting. I don’t mean simply giving more hours to writing, although that has been true. I also mean a mental shift from treating it like a glorified hobby to treating it more seriously.

This change has seen me apply a lot of thinking to the way I track my songs’ progress. And it affects both unfinished songs and published/released songs.

I now keep a spreadsheet of every song I’ve ever been involved with and update it monthly. On it, I list out as much information as I can about each song. I list out the contributors; the themes; whether it has a completed melody, lyrics and demo. I make a note of the preferred tempo and time signature. I include a link to the google doc of the lyrics and almost any other detail I can record.

For finished songs it goes on to list whether or not it has been released anywhere (and if so, then when and where). It shows what my writer’s percentage is; how many Spotify streams it’s received; and how much money it’s earned me. I’ve also started to keep graphs of how my songs perform year on year, in earnings and streams. The graphs are probably too far…but my visual brain loves it nonetheless! It’s been an encouraging exercise, because it’s shown me how my songs and songwriting revenue are growing over time.

My intention by setting this system up wasn’t to boost my own ego (let’s be honest, the numbers on that graph and spreadsheet are in the 10’s, not the 1000’s!). I’m more than aware that I am a small fish at the moment. But in the future I want songwriting to be an area that I excel at, and I want to make it count in my creative career. The real reason for all of this was to build a structure that would help me when the numbers are bigger. When the stakes are higher, I want a solid system to ensure my songs are achieving as well as they can.

And I’m loving it! It’s already given me a few great insights.

It’s led me to chase a statement which had its balance rolled forward despite being a payable amount and resulted in me being paid when previously I wouldn’t have questioned it.

It’s led me to email the powers-that-be to ask why I haven’t received streaming payment for songs with decent play counts. It turned out they had indeed earned Spotify income.

It’s given me a written record of who I have co-written most successfully with. Which lyrical themes I tend to lean towards. Which genre is being listened to the most.

It has shown me which old, unfinished songs of mine are nearly there but that would’ve otherwise been forgotten.

Over time I expect it could show me common patterns to explain why some of my songs achieve more than others.

Here’s a link to an example version of the spreadsheet. Feel free to use it for yourself if you think it would be useful. Or add/remove your own details as it serves you:



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Jotham Oakley

Jotham is a songwriter, drummer and graphic designer based in Brighton. As well as melodies, lyrics and beats; he designs posters, album covers and app interfaces. He's married to Charlotte & they're excited to be expecting a baby later this year.

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