How Being “AWARE” Can Help Your Songwriting Career

Leland  •  November 5, 2014

Leland is the mind-bending pop brainchild of ASCAP songwriter Brett McLaughlin. To celebrate the November 4th release of Leland's very first video, for debut single "Aware," we asked him to tell us five things that every songwriter should be "aware" of.


Being an LA resident for five years now, I feel as though I’ve become aware of some of the dos and don’ts when trying to make it as a songwriter. It's my hope that this knowledge can help you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made and also replicate some of my successes for yourself.

1. Never show up late to a session with Starbucks in your hand.

Not only does this show the other writers that you chose your chai latte over being punctual, but you also didn’t text them to see if they wanted an iced coffee or vanilla scone. Having respect for each others time is one of the sacred rules of songwriting. It’s important to be aware that in the extra 45 minutes it took you to get to the session, the other writer could have finished their laundry, taken a meeting or stretched a little longer in yoga class.

2. Use your friends.

That’s right. Use your friends. When your music is strong, your friends will want to help. Need production assistants for your music video? Ask your roommate and his girlfriend. Need craft services? See if Aunt Jackie has some left over chili from Sunday's game. Be aware of what you do and don’t need to spend money on. 

My music video for “AWARE,” which premiered on on November 4th, cost me a total of $200. Fellow artists and friends have asked me “How did you do it for $200?” My response to them has been: “I didn’t have any other option.” My good friend Allie White is the general manager of The Three Clubs Cocktail Lounge, my favorite bar in Hollywood, and she graciously allowed me to shoot the dinner and club scenes there for free. I only used locations that were free, and I made sure there was always plenty of food and drink available for the cast and crew.


Making it as a songwriter is about being your own boss, your own assistant, and your own motivator. When it comes to the IRS, you’re technically an independent contractor anyways so you might as well act like one. Know what questions to ask and what questions can be solved with a ten-second Google search on your smartphone. It is important to be aware of what you are capable of doing on your own and when it’s appropriate to ask for a help.

4. Personalize EVERYTHING!

Mass texts are exactly that, mass. The easiest way to make someone not want to come to your show is to send a flyer with nine unknown numbers attached. Make each invite personal and custom. I did a residency earlier this year at Three Clubs. A week before each show I mailed out postcard-size magnets with all the show info and hand-written notes to 150 of my acquaintances in Los Angeles. I did this so each person would have the magnet on his or her fridge and would most likely see it multiple times a day. The $60 I spent on magnets at, one of my favorite marketing tool sites, was money well spent, because over 100 people showed up to the first night of the residency.

5. Make sure your friends are more talented than you.

Trust me: you want your friends to be better than you. Why? Because you should constantly be inspired by their work ethic, music and talent. Success is contagious. There’s always a new batch of artists who are ‘up-and-coming.’  You want to make sure you’re in the right batch.   It’s important to be aware of who you surround yourself with, because it’s very easy for outsiders to assume something about you if spend all your time with a certain crowd.


LELAND’s music video for his debut single “AWARE” premiered on November 4th, 2014. Click here for the whole story.

Find LELAND online: