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The secret of great songwriting is to write a hundred crappy songs first.
Once you have done that, you know how to write a song so you can concentrate on writing that one really great one.
And at this point, you need to write a song that people will truly love. One will do. It will be your pension.
So all you need to do to achieve your goal is follow these steps...
- Get people to play your song. You can do that by getting your song performed by a popular artist. That always works. Or you can become a popular artist yourself or form a band. Hmm, that could be as difficult as writing a great song.
- Get people not to turn off your song, skip to the next track or change radio station. You can do that firstly by making sure that the very beginning of your song is interesting and not off-putting. It needs to have a 'what's going to come next' factor about it too, like a page-turner of a book that you can't put down.
- Make sure that your song has a great 'hook'. The hook is whatever it is about the song that people will love best. It might be the melody of the chorus, the groove or even an interesting sonic effect. Usually it's the melody of the chorus that does the job. Let's go forward assuming it is the chorus that's the hook.
- Write a verse that gives the chorus the 'halo effect'. Don't know what the halo effect is? It is the art of managing expectations so that when the listener gets to the good bit, it seems even better. It's like a 60-year old celebrity on Dancing With The Stars. You don't expect them to be any good at that age, so when they are half-decent, you think they are brilliant.
- A choice here... Either repeat the chorus over and over so it gets stuck in the listener's head. Or... have the chorus just twice, so to hear it again, the listener has to play the song again (or buy it!).
- As you write your first truly great song, have in mind that you need to get the listener singing along with the song. Remember that great track from the 1970s, Sing If You're Glad To Be Gay? Many a listener got well into the second line before they remembered that they weren't really properly qualified to be singing along.
- If you've done all the above but nothing more, your song isn't great yet. Next you have to get the listener to get up and dance. Or at least jiggle about a bit. OK, there are some great songs you can't really dance to. But if your song isn't danceable, you had better have a very good reason for it.
- OK, nearly there. This is the tough one. I could say that you have to get the listener to love the song. But love can be fleeting. You need to establish a relationship between the listener and the song that will last their entire lifetime. You can do this by connecting on a deep emotional level. Human beings seem to be hard-wired with emotions. And since you have probably experienced a wide range of them yourself, you are at least in a good place to start from.
- Lastly you need to get people to get their money out and hand it over! Your self-indulgent, inward-looking, arty-farty brain drool isn't going to make more than pennies. You need to offer something that is so amazing in value that people want your music more than they want anything else in life at that moment. And that feeling of wanting can't be satisfied until they are playing your song over and over.
- One more thing... if writing great songs were easy, everyone would be doing it. The great thing is however that anyone can try. Get to work!
This article was inspired by Zen and the Art of Mixing by Mixerman, who confides that when he's singing along with the mix, he knows he is onto something.