In this blog I want to discuss why your songs are failing and more importantly what you can do to write killer hits. Now I’m not saying that your songs are bad, however there are two fundamental challenges that you must face in order to perfect your craft and write a career-defining track.
Firstly, GOOD IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!! Think about it, there are so many bands at your level and that makes it incredibly hard to stand out. This means you need to be writing excellent tracks to have a competitive edge.
Another challenge is that if you are a competent musician or a competent singer you can make average material sound great. This may win the applause of those close to you, be it friends or family but you will hit a glass ceiling as the songwriting is perhaps not as good as you think it is. Ultimately what you are trying to get across to your audience may not translate.
Now I know that all of this may seem a bit negative or challenging however don't despair!. I want to show you how we can raise the bar instantly.
As mentioned, a competent musician/singer can make average material sound great and from these releases everyone around you will offer praise and support. However you may find the industry does not share the same esteem.
Conversely, this is where people who don't sound that polished have an advantage over you. As they have to rely on the power of their songwriting to break through. Think of “Should I stay or should I go” by the Clash or “Common People” by Pulp, it could be argued that the most proficient musicians did not write these songs but instead the most gifted songwriters.
For me, that’s the difference between art and craft. I know you can play, but lets get stuck into the songwriting. You, my friend are an artist and the audience demands substance and depth from their entertainment.
It’s time to zero in on your lyrics and think about how it represents the audience. And, before you do anything else put down the guitar, switch off Protools; write down 50 great titles that hit the nail on the head and these will be the basis of your next batch of songwriting.
We now have an amazing opportunity to not only come up with some great titles but also a career defining song and message, which introduces your band to the world. Think of “Like a Virgin” by Madonna, “Killing in the name of” by Rage Against the Machine or “Fight for your right” by the Beastie Boys.
Let me tell you a story, my band Little Angels’ first album came out in 1989 on a Major, it had two singles which did not take, and we were in serious trouble. Major labels do not take kindly to bands that do not have hit records. Co writing saved my bacon and saved my career and we got our first hit, and many hits afterwards.
During that time, bands routinely wrote with people like Diane Warren, Jim Vallance and Desmond Childs. That’s how it worked, there was a culture of co-writing. You may ask “how do you get co-writes?” Well maybe your publisher sets it up, but usually you go see a band live, you get chatting and ask if you fancy writing some songs then you sit down and you write those songs. It really is that simple!
Most bands I speak to today see co-writing as a sign of weakness and this needs to stop. Co writing is a learning opportunity and its a chance to inject some pace and energy into your practice. Don't write one song a month, write five songs a day. Write from different angles, write with other people, that’s how you will get a career defining track.
How are we going to do that? We are going to set ourselves up for success like a professional writer using process; from Tip.1 we already have fifty great titles. So we need to allocate some time to do the writing, we are also going to research some tempos and grooves and join the two together. We will write some songs and get the creative process going. I can assure you that out of that process of craft that art and inspiration will follow and great songs will emerge!
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