When you write a new song, how many people are really involved? Let’s list them. Obviously there is you and maybe a co-writer or two. Then there are those you may depend on to listen and help you decide if the song is ready to pitch. Once you have decided it is ready, you take it to a music publisher. From that point, considering he likes it, there are the musicians and singer(s) who record the demo. Then there are the engineers who use Pro Tools to perfect it. Next, come the song pluggers whose job it is to find a recording artist to record it and put it on their new CD. Then there is the recording artist. From there are a boatload of people responsible for getting it on the radio and the CDs in WalMart or other retail establishments
So even though you are the writer of the song, there are many, many people involved in the success of the song. Funny thing though, the most important person in this process, and the first person the songwriter should be thinking about from the time they get the idea for the song, is not anywhere on this list.
Who are we talking about? The most important person in the process of writing songs is the average middle American consumer who will hear and hopefully buy the CD. The person at the top of this songwriting “food chain” is the listener, the person, who will ultimately hear the song on the radio or CD and within seconds decide if they like it or not and whether or not they will be motivated to go out and buy it. When you write a song, the listener should be your target and remain in your mind through the whole process of crafting the song. Let’s take a look at this listener for a moment.
Introducing the 7:00 A.M. rule. The listener is in his/her car at 7:00 A.M. driving to work with the radio cranked up listening to song after song. They have their favorites and if your new song is to be added to the list it must be not only great, but it must grab the listener in some way, and they must be able to relate to it on some emotional level in 2 1/2 – 31/2 minutes. Remember that the listener could care less about you or how much work it took to get that song on the radio where they could hear it. All they care about is themselves, what problems they are currently dealing with and how to make their lives better. Even if they happen to be the altruistic type that always thinks about and wants to help others, they still are listening to the song without even considering you. Music is one of the ways listeners escape their problems to get away for awhile, if only for a few minutes.
This listener, driving to work in their car, does it 5 or more times a week, listening to the radio. They are used to receiving this musical information in a few certain forms and that’s how they want it every time. I’m talking about song structure. Intros, verses, choruses, bridges and endings. They are used to hearing songs arranged in certain ways.
They are driving along listening to songs. Sometimes they wait through the commercials because they have a favorite radio station and they stay on that one no matter what. But sometimes they are button pushers who change stations every time a commercial comes on. Either way, once your song comes on, you only have 10-15 seconds to get their attention. Your opening line, musically and lyrically must be ear catching and get their attention or you’ll lose them and they will change stations.
Make sure your story line is easy to understand and follow. There must be a beginning, a middle and an ending, a conclusion, just like a great novel, and it must make perfect sense and be a story they can relate to.
Your conclusion, the way the song ends, including the musical outro, should motivate them to act on what the song’s message said. It should make them want to call up a friend a lover or whatever the song talked about. But most of all, it should motivate them to go to WalMart and buy the CD.
The listener takes no prisoners. There CD collection is important to them. If you want them to add yours to it, you should have put in the effort to learn how to create a song that will make them want to buy the CD. You must make sure you have your chops together. It’s that black and white. It’s the difference between getting paid to write songs and working at McDonalds.
Always remember that yes, you have to have a good idea for a song before you start creating verses and choruses, but the very next thought you should have is,
“What would the listener want to hear about this idea”. This should be the beginning of your songwriting plan. Every time.
Copyright © 2011 Joe Russ All rights reserved Reprinted with permission from Joe Russ.