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| >> article
The Hit Song
Lets face it, as songwriters, we are all
trying to sort out the pieces of a huge puzzle. The
puzzle represents what it is that publishers are exactly
looking for as they weed through the thousands of demos
they receive, in search of the next big hit. Perhaps it
would help if we were to try to imagine what we might
ask them to create if it was their job to make the art
and our job to sell it.
I think we would then begin
to look at the music marketplace as a place where
business trends and sociological shifts meet with
creating art and making your mark. This is where the
rubber meets the road if it is a hit song you are after.
If we want to climb "inside the head" of a
publisher we would find that they knowingly or
intuitively are calculating the marketable merits of a
song based on three main musical principles; form, style
Form is a term that
encompasses the musical and lyrical templates, or
moulds, that your original creative content, is poured
into. Great writers study form and often use an
established form that has already been "test driven" on
a number of previous hit songs. Amateur writers have a
tendency to create their form as they write their song.
This often causes the song to lack the impact it would
have had on the listener had it been written in a
reliable form and therefore dilutes it's marketability.
There should be a law that states, "Do not attempt to
break into the industry with a piece of music that
experiments with form". Musical form, through history,
has evolved only slightly compared to style and so the
study and application of form is time well spent. Form
has good shelf life.
Style is never static and
yet, it also never really causes a revolution as is
popularly thought. The notion that there are violent and
dramatic revolutions in style is a contrived
exaggeration used by the industry at large to get us
exited about buying products (read "hype").
in fact constantly in evolution. What we hear on the
radio and get sold in the stores is only incrementally
different from what was "large" three months ago. Music
on the radio and on the front racks seems to turn over
seasonally as it evolves constantly.
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|It could be argued
that there are moments of revolution that turn the
world on its ear, so to speak. I have heard it
said that The Beatles "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts
Club Band" created a revolution. I have challenged
those that have made this claim to give a fresh
listen to "Revolver" and note that in the Beatles
preceding album, they were well on their way to
creating in the styles that emerged full bloom in
"Sgt.Pepper". I'm not saying that "Pepper" is not
a pop masterpiece (I do not want to get a mountain
of hate mail), I just want to illustrate that
stylistically, your music should not just spring
up out of nowhere with the expectation that
listeners should embrace it without them being
brought to that spot through a cultural process.
Great art is created within such a process.
Originality is a
dangerous feature in a song because songs are designed
to express common ideas and emotions that as many
listeners as possible will be able to relate to.
Originality by definition strives for uniqueness that is
not collective. Original however can also be defined as
meaning "old style" as in original recipe. Great song
writing, therefore, is a balance of unique originality
and original story telling from our common collection of
Perhaps our best chance at
finding the most accurate recipe for a hit song is to
have, and implement, a thorough knowledge and
understanding of form and to then marry this to the
current trends being displayed as the style of the
moment. Add a touch of originality in the actual content
to make it fresh and uniquely your own, yet socially
relevant and there you have it. Reliable form, popular
style and original content, a piece of cake right?
I must agree that this is
easier said than done but the more I get to know some of
the people that are in the business of choosing music
for the popular market, the more I am convinced that
many of them know how they need us to write songs for
them to be able to sell them. Even if they cannot
articulate this in technical terms, they have an inner
sense of form, style and originality that is consistent
and yet constantly evolving.
Understanding all the
things your music needs to be, outside of what you need
it to be, is an essential piece in what we would all
agree is the very big puzzle of the hit song formula
©2008 James Linderman. All Rights
Reserved. Used By Permission.
Article from Canadian
Musician 2006 and The Muses Muse 2005, Songwriters
International 2004, Professional Musician
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