What to Do AFTER You Write Your Song

Your song is finished. You like what you’ve written. You think it has commercial potential. Now what will you do with it? You’ve got options. You can start by pitching it directly to music publishers or, in today’s Internet-driven music business, you might decide to create a buzz around your song on a site like YouTube.

Here are six tips for increasing your chances of finding a home for your song in the music business.

1. Know what GENRE you’re writing in. For the best chance of success, write your songs in a contemporary style that you hear on the radio or on film and TV. Music publishers and music supervisors look for songs that appeal to an established audience. If you fit in to a style with proven appeal, you’ll have a better chance of a successful pitch.

This doesn’t mean you should write a song in a style you don’t like or don’t feel comfortable with. Stay true to your emotions and themes, but you can make small decisions as you go along that will steer your song toward a more marketable sound if you keep a genre in mind as you go along.

For the best result, ask yourself what genre you want to write in BEFORE you write your song. Then you’ll be able to shape your song as you go along. Then, when a music publisher asks you what current style you’re writing in, or what artist do you sound like, you’ll have your answer ready.

Find out how to break down a genre and study it.

2. Aim your song toward a USE. Will you pitch to film & TV music libraries? Or pitch to other artists through a music publisher or personal contact? Or perform it in your own live shows? Each of these songs has to perform a different job. This will suggest, for example, how big and catchy your chorus needs to be. For an artist looking for a hit single, think big, irresistibly hummable chorus. For a film & TV song, you can keep it more low key and intimate.

A great song that works for one type of use may not work well for a different use. Just because a song isn’t a hit single, doesn’t mean it isn’t a great song. Maybe it would be perfect under a scene in a prime time TV series.  Study songs that are successful in the market you want to write for and learn from them.

More about writing songs for movies and TV shows.

3. Know which contemporary artists are similar to you. The first thing the music industry will ask is who do you sound like (if you’re an artist) or what style/artist do your songs sound like. This is standard shorthand for the industry so be ready with an honest, accurate answer. It’s not that they want you to copy or sound exactly like someone else, but they need a ballpark so they can quickly assess whether you fit into their current needs.  Continue reading “What to Do AFTER You Write Your Song”

Great Song Lyrics: Using Clichés

Have you ever noticed how some people can describe a simple, everyday event and make it sound hilarious or tragic or just plain interesting, while another person can tell the same story and have you snoring with boredom in an instant?

If the language you use to tell a story is vivid and fresh even a familiar experience or idea can come to life, but if you’re talking in overused, predictable phrases – in other words, if you’re using clichés – the most exciting story can become dull. It’s all in the words you choose.

People often speak in clichés.
Time flies!A cliché is a phrase that’s been used so often it has become a universal way of expressing an idea: “Time flies!” “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” “He’s full of hot air.” “You can count on me.” It’s often the first phrase that comes to mind and you can be pretty sure that everyone knows what you mean.

For example, here’s a description of a workday that’s filled with clichés.

  • I guess I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Nothing seemed to go right. I took the bus to work; it was so crowded people were packed like sardines. I was late getting to the office and the boss was hopping mad. The day seemed to drag on and on. I thought six o’clock would never come!

While this paragraph gives you an idea of what the speaker’s day was like, it doesn’t make you feel the boredom and frustration. Familiar phrases such as “packed like sardines,” “hopping mad” and “seemed to drag on and on” have been used so many times they’ve lost their emotional impact. Listeners no longer picture the images or notice the comparisons.

Give your clichés new life. 
1. Use a fresh or unexpected comparison: Comparisons are a great way to add energy to a description. There was a time when “packed like sardines” was vivid, fresh, and funny. Listeners really pictured it when they heard it and it made them react. Eventually, so many people liked it and used it that the idea became stale and listeners stopped reacting. Continue reading “Great Song Lyrics: Using Clichés”

5 Ways to Rewrite a Melody

by Robin Frederick

Bright ideaMost of us know how to rework a song lyric to make it stronger – add images, action words, tighten the focus, etc. – but melodies are often left out of the rewriting process. Many times, the first melody that pops out is the one we keep just because we don’t know how to make it better.

But what happens when your melodies all start to sound the same, or a music publisher tells you your melody sounds generic or dated? How do you fix those problems? Here are a few tips that will help you reshape and update your melodies. Experiment with these ideas; play around with them. If you don’t like the new melody you come up with, you can always go back to what you had.

1. Break up a series of similar lines into different lengths. If you have a melody with a lot of lines that are the same length, your song might might sound monotonous or unstructured to listeners. Rewrite your chorus or verse melody to increase the contrast between sections. Try breaking up a long line into two shorter phrases or run two phrases together by adding extra notes and words.  Continue reading “5 Ways to Rewrite a Melody”

Do Your Songs All Sound the Same?

by Robin Frederick

Q & AQ: I have one big problem and I’m wondering if you can help.  I have written over 160 songs. My words, melody, and my voice all seem to sound the same.  What am I doing wrong?

A: If you have a “signature sound” – your songs all have a recognizable style and sound –  there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. To my ears, many of Jackson Browne’s songs sound very similar in terms of music and vocals, and he’s certainly successful. He relies on powerful lyrics to tell unique stories filled with emotion and character. Vocals and music are secondary, while the lyrics hold the listener’s attention.

So, the real question is, do listeners respond to your songs and your sound the way you want them to? If you feel you’re not reaching them, then it’s a matter of upping your songwriting skills in one or more areas.  Continue reading “Do Your Songs All Sound the Same?”