Department of Sociology
Master of Arts
Becoming a songwriter implies a process through which someone must experience specific things indigenous to the social world of songwriters. This research focused on the process someone goes through to become a songwriter. The process as described by the actor is influenced by both the actor and society. Previous research is limited to structural factors while this study allows the social actor to describe, in his or her own words, how his or her self-perceptions and early environmental influences have altered, influenced, and directed the process the songwriter experiences to become a member of the social world of songwriters. All fifteen songwriters that were interviewed for this thesis described similar environmental influences. All grew up in family environments that provided some type of musical influence. They remember watching their grandparents sing or play an instrument, or they have grown up in an environment in which one or both of their parents were in some way involved in music. Eleven of the songwriters had a parent who played an instrument around the house, four of the parents were members of bands, six of the parents had written songs or poems, and every single songwriter had at least one parent who played music around the house in the form of record collections or watched favorite television programs that were musical in format. The environmental influences were extremely important in that they provided a beginning, a first step towards an understanding of the process that someone experiences to become a songwriter. Second, it becomes even more important to that understanding of the process to view the social world of songwriters through the eyes of the songwriter, and the best way to do that is to ask them to describe "how" they perceive themselves in relation to that process. Many of the songwriters described themselves as being songwriters at an early age, usually during their teenage years. At that time they perceived songwriting as a way to express themselves. Songwriting became their "avenue" not only to deal with life but also to make sense of what was going on around them. Many of the songwriters described themselves as successful not because they had sold songs but because they have grown and matured as individuals writing songs. They recognize that structural success in songwriting has to do with talent but also being in the right place, and the "right places" are part of the process that society controls. When asked if they would always envision themselves as songwriters, all of the songwriters said yes. Their self-perceptions are very clear when it comes to their role as songwriters. It is something they grew up identifying with their selves, and in every sense of their being, music is at the very heart of who they perceive themselves to be.
Ehlts, Becky, "The Process of Becoming a Songwriter: A Qualitative Analysis of Self-Perceptions and Early Environmental Experiences" (1999). Masters Theses & Specialist Projects. Paper 749.