Want To Write A Hit Song? 4th Excerpt From The Book "Song Journey"

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Want to Write a Hit Song? Here Are 3 Strategies to Get You Started.

The following is adapted from Song Journey.

So you want to write a hit song—where should you get started?

Keep in mind, no one can guarantee a hit. No label, no producer, no artist, and no songwriter. Max Martin misses, Diane Warren misses, Ryan Tedder misses. They all miss more often than they hit. There is no formula. But there are things you can do to up the odds of your song getting heard, cut, and if all the stars align, becoming a hit.

In this article, we’ll look three strategies to improve your odds of writing a hit.

#1: Do Your Homework

Start by listening to the hits and look for patterns. Are you hearing more and more songs about affirmation? I want to see you be brave, strong, beautiful, happy?

Since the beginning, songwriters have known one of the quickest ways to a listener’s heart is to lift them up with your song. There’s a fancy term called second-person positive, basically a lyric that makes someone else feel great about themselves.

Think about the Joe Cocker classic, “You Are So Beautiful.”

Nowadays, every publisher, producer, and artist in Nashville wants “up-tempo positive.” The reason for this is the sheer volume of ballads and mid-tempos they get. When a couple writers get in the room with an acoustic guitar or a piano, they seem to turn into Joni Mitchell or James Taylor. It’s hard to create that energy unless you plan for it, but your chances of getting that hit improve by giving the powers that be what they want.

#2: Deconstruct Current Hits

Go beyond just listening to current hits or learning to play them. Do things like write down the structure, print out the lyric, and make notes about the production.

I’m always amazed at the songwriting clients I get who will say they want to write a huge song but pay absolutely no attention to current hits. If you’re writing pop or even new country and are still creating long intros, lots of verses, using only one hook, and aren’t familiar with terms such as post-chorus, you might have a harder road.

Try going one step beyond deconstructing and create a playlist with a couple of hits along with a song of your own. Try to pick songs that might have something in common with yours, but the idea is to be objective. Does your song hold up to the others?

If not, why? Go back to your notes. What’s different?

The point is not to clone but to get this info into your subconscious so the next song you write is at least informed by structural ideas that are more current.

Even though you’re listening to the radio and learning the structural and lyrical as well as musical content, remember the songs you’re hearing were probably written and recorded as much as a year ago or more. If you set out to write something exactly like what you’re hearing, you’re likely too late. So what can you do now?

#3: Add Yourself to the Mix

Try to take it all in and then add yourself to the mix. What makes you different as a songwriter? Can you bring something fresh to your songwriting?

You could argue there’s nothing new under the sun, but I disagree.

Music goes in cycles, styles change, and old becomes new every once in a while. Our job is to tap into a listener’s head and create something a whole lot of people love at the same time. It’s not easy, but the chances get better not only by honing your craft, but also by learning what came before (even if that’s only a month back). It all goes into your toolbox as a songwriter and gives you the best chance of writing a hit.

For more advice on writing a hit song, you can find Song Journey on Amazon.

Mark Cawley is a hit songwriter who coaches other writers around the globe through his one-on-one, online service iDocoach.com. His songs have been on more than 16 million records with cuts ranging from Tina Turner to Wynonna Judd to The Spice Girls. Mark is a judge for the UK Songwriting Contest, Nashville Rising Star, Belmont University’s Commercial Music program, and West Coast Songwriter events. He’s also a contributing author to USA Songwriting and Songwriter Magazine, a sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, and a mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK. Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Mark now resides in Nashville, Tennessee.



Song Structure , 3rd Excerpt From My Book "Song Journey"

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Learn the Rules of Song Structure (So You Can Break Them Later)

The following is adapted from my book “Song Journey.”

Song structure is important if you’re a songwriter, but what I’ve found is that there is no singular way to structure a song if you want it to be a hit. There’s also some confusion around the right way to structure a song so that it connects with today’s market.

In this article, I’m going to lay out the rules of song structure, not for the purposes of boxing you in while you’re writing—but so you know what rules to break later on.

A Simple Explanation

The best, simplest way I’ve heard song structure explained is this:

  • The info, the story, and the details are in the verses

  • The pre-chorus builds the tension and makes you want to hear the chorus

  • The chorus is the BIG FAT IDEA.

  • The bridge is the scenic route on the journey

  • The post-chorus reminds you of the BIG FAT IDEA without restating it

Before we get a little more technical, this framework gives you the big picture.

Current Song Structures

There are so many ways to structure a song, but staying current is a good place to start writing hits. Listeners’ tastes change, and song structure usually reflects the changes.

In 1967, the Doors were stretching the limits of radio with seven-minute songs. These days, you’re more likely to find them in the three- to three-and-a-half-minute range, sometimes without any of the old building blocks such as bridges and pre-choruses.

A good exercise is to deconstruct the songs that move you, just for the structure.

Take notes on how the song is constructed. Next time you sit down to write, consider the song you tore apart when you build your own.

It’s an eye-opening shortcut to see how the big boys build. Keep doing this, and what you learn gets in your songwriter DNA. You get better quick.

Getting Started with Structure

If you think of the parts of your song in terms of A, B, and C, it’s easy to track:

A is your verse, B the chorus, and C the bridge.

There are more parts to consider such as the intro, pre-chorus, and post-chorus, but for now, use these three as your standard. Common forms are:

A, A, B, A, B, C, B, B

A, B, A, B, C, B, B

You don’t see many A-only songs today (think “I Walk the Line”). Early folk and country utilized this structure, but it’s disappeared as listeners look for multiple hooks.

Start with the basic forms, but mix and match. Does your song need a bridge? Would it work to start with the chorus or a part of it? Better with pre-choruses or post-choruses?

A good guide is to take notes on the song structures you’re hearing on the radio now. In coaching songwriters, I tend to see quite a few A, A, B, A, A, B, C, B, B; four verses.

I generally ask them to give some thought to paring this down to three whenever possible. Songs in most modern music are shorter these days.

Plus, it’s always been a matter of “Don’t bore us; get to the chorus.”

Check the running time of your song before you sign off on it. This can help you decide what needs to go if you’re looking at a four-minute song. Think of the listener in this case. You might want to use more repetition and less new information.

Another structure that almost feels like cheating when it works is to start your song with the chorus or a portion of it. If you can hook a listener that fast, the chances of their channel surfing in the car go way down.

Think About Moments

When I’m structuring a song, I try to think about moments. We’ve all heard moments in the performance of a song. Think of singers with big voices; Whitney Houston, Adele, and Celine Dion come to mind. They can bring out the raw emotion in a song, but you can be thinking about those moments as you create yours.

What are the real moments, the emotional highs and lows in my song? How do I want to feature them when I’m putting the song together?

You can create a moment with a modulation. Tread carefully here; you can also create a cringe-worthy moment that you can’t get back. Space (silence in your arrangement) can be built into the structure and doesn’t have to rely only on the singer.

Know the Rules, Break the Rules

Try to let the song dictate the structure rather than any rules you come across. You’re looking for happy accidents, and mixing up the structure might provide.

The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” was created by crashing two different song ideas together. Lennon had the trippy part but was stuck on finishing when McCartney played him an unfinished song of his own. The “woke up, got out of bed” section was a perfect counterpoint to what Lennon had written.

When I first read that story, the technique went directly into my toolbox.

Daniel Levitin, an American neuroscientist described what Lennon and McCartney achieved really well in his book This Is Your Brain on Music:

Music is organized sound, but the organization has to involve some element of the unexpected or it’s emotionally flat and robotic. The artist artfully manipulates our expectations with a semi-resolution that straddles surprise and release.

Yeah, what he said.

For more advice on song structure, you can find “Song Journey” on Amazon. Its currently #1 in multiple categories worldwide!

Mark Cawley is a hit songwriter who coaches other writers around the globe through his one-on-one, online service iDocoach.com. His songs have been on more than 16 million records with cuts ranging from Tina Turner to Wynonna Judd to The Spice Girls. Mark is a judge for the UK Songwriting Contest, Nashville Rising Star, Belmont University’s Commercial Music program, and West Coast Songwriter events. He’s also a contributing author to USA Songwriting and Songwriter Magazine, a sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, and a mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK. Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Mark now resides in Nashville, Tennessee.



"When Is Your Song Done? From My #1 Amazon Book "Song Journey"

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To Know if Your Song is Done, Ask Yourself These Questions

The following is adapted from Song Journey.

You have a song you feel great about, one that you’re positive is ready for demo.

Now what? As I often tell the songwriters I coach—slow down. Before you rush to the studio, you need to take some time and be sure your song is done.

When I hear “I wrote this in ten minutes,” I’m scared because it often means the writer I’m coaching had ten minutes of inspiration but zero minutes of editing.

Do you know what one of the big differences between amateur songwriters and the pros is? Rewriting. It’s hard. That’s why so many novice writers don’t do it. “The fun is in the inspiration, not the perspiration.” I hear you, but there are no points for fast.

Most of the pro writers I know and work with are master craftsmen. They take their time. There’s an old saying about writing: “You write your first draft with your heart…You rewrite with your head.” Use your head before you stamp a song as “done.”

In this article, I’ll walk you through some steps to decide if you’re at that point.

Ask Yourself These Questions

Here are a few things I might ask myself before signing off on a song. These are tough questions to ask about a song you like, but it’s best to ask them at this stage.

Is it relatable?

You want to write about something people really care about.

Am I showing or just telling?

Include enough color and detail to make a listener see what you want them to see.

Is there a better concept out there?

Don’t settle if there’s a better, more unique way to tell your story.

Does my song breathe?

Make room for the lyric and the melody to coexist so it’s not a challenge for a listener.

Is my chorus memorable?

You want your listener to go away humming it.

Have I been self-indulgent?

Just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean it has to be in the final version.

Is the intro a hook or just a space to fill?

Your song has to grab listeners right away. Don’t waste their time.

Is my bridge a real departure from everything else?

If it’s not, consider if you even need a bridge.

Is there too much information in my song?

Info belongs in the verses and bridge.

If the story continues long into the chorus, it’s a great way to lose a listener.

How long is my song?

This is where you have to be realistic. If you’re pushing four minutes, it’s too long.

How interesting is my idea?

The title (the expression of your idea) needs to pull someone in.

Have I studied current song structure?

If your song sounds great for the 1960s, it might not work for today’s market.

Do I LOVE IT?

If you don’t love it, it’s not done.

Ways to Test Your Song

If you play live, you can use your audience as a focus group for your song. These are the people who hopefully would be buying what you’re selling.

If you don’t play live and don’t have a publisher yet, give your lyric to a friend and ask them to come back and tell you what your lyric is about. If they can’t, ask yourself if you’ve written it clearly or if the idea is more in your head than on the page.

Before I make up my mind on a lyric, I might try it from another perspective. Is it better written in second or third person? I don’t know, but I might try.

Have I compromised anywhere in my song? Made the right choices?

Does the song move me? Believe me, the best ones will move you first, and if they do, the odds of the song moving someone else are great.

The Four Stages of Creativity

If you find your song still needs some work, it’s easy to get discouraged. After all, you thought you had a finished song, and now you’re facing the reality that your beautiful creation still needs more work before it’s ready for the spotlight.

To get you writing again, let’s look at a process for sparking creativity.

Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman is credited with coming up with the four stages of creativity, which John Braheny mentions in his book The Craft and Business of Songwriting as well. When I’m coaching, this is how I explain them:

  1. Preparation. Here you intentionally look for things to write about: lines, titles, making your list. You’re preparing to write. Maybe not today, but in the future.

  2. Incubation. Let these ideas, lines, and titles marinate.

  3. Illumination. Remember the stuff about the good stuff? The real details? This is where you put in the good stuff, the real details that elevate amazing songs from average ones. Begin to shed light on this idea you found.

  4. Verification. Bring the editor to the table and put him to work.

So how do these four stages work?

First, if I can say I looked for the best idea possible for my song, let it sit awhile rather than settling on the first thing that came to mind, started writing my lyric with the real stuff and did not just begin by making my lyric look good (clever words and rhymes) on paper, and left the editor/critic out all along the way until step 4, I’m good.

I don’t necessarily think about these stages while I’m writing.

Instead, I wait until I’m happy with my song and then double-check these stages to make me that much more confident that I’ve written the best song I can.

Don’t Stop Until You’re Truly Done

Done is fun. There’s nothing better than when you’ve finished a great song, having reached the point where you sit back and feel like you’ve performed a magic trick—pulled something out of thin air. It’s great to be a songwriter at that moment.

But getting to that point requires more than ten minutes of inspiration.

For more advice on knowing if your song is done, you can find Song Journey on Amazon.

Mark Cawley is a hit songwriter who coaches other writers around the globe through his one-on-one, online service iDocoach.com. His songs have been on more than 16 million records with cuts ranging from Tina Turner to Wynonna Judd to The Spice Girls. Mark is a judge for the UK Songwriting Contest, Nashville Rising Star, Belmont University’s Commercial Music program, and West Coast Songwriter events. He’s also a contributing author to USA Songwriting and Songwriter Magazine, a sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, and a mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK. Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Mark now resides in Nashville, Tennessee.



Excerpt From The Book "Song Journey" On lyric Writing

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The Mantra Every Lyricist Should Live By

The following is an excerpt from Song Journey by Mark Cawley

As a songwriter, what’s a good place to start once you have a title or an idea of what you’re going to write about? Prose. But, instead of jumping right in, try closing your eyes, thinking about your idea, and then writing what you see.

Don’t rhyme, don’t worry about cadence or how cool it looks on the page, just write.

If you’re writing a song about meeting the love of your life, talk about the time of day, name the place you met, what the weather was like. Color of her hair.

Even the smallest detail can make the difference between a generic lyric and one that comes to life. If it’s a car, what’s the make? These details make up the real stuff. Write the real stuff because it’s the good stuff. You can make it pretty later.

If you have one mantra as a lyricist, let it be “Show. Don’t tell.”

I wish I’d invented this, but I’m not that smart. Any Nashville writer knows this truism, and it applies to every kind of lyric. If you’re telling, you’re just reporting.

“Just the facts” is not a good idea here. You want to paint a picture, and you do that with color and detail. Make the listener see what you want them to see.

The late John Braheny wrote one of the best books on songwriting I’ve ever read called The Craft and Business of Songwriting. In it, he uses this example to illustrate the point:

Look at three objects — a car, a book, and a musical instrument:

  • My great 1982 Porsche 928 with a broken right taillight.

  • My paperback with a blue cover and the words Gift from God printed in gold.

  • My old white Telecaster with a broken B string and a missing volume knob.

Now you see ’em…

  • My Honda

  • The book I’m reading

  • I play an instrument

…and now you don’t. That is the power of “Show. Don’t tell.”

How much color and detail is too much? In Jimmy McDonough’s biography of Neil Young, Shakey, he wrote a piece where he compared a good lyricist to a “stager.”

My daughter, Morgan, has her own interior design business here in Nashville and gets called in occasionally to be a stager. Her job is to look at a house that’s on the market and put herself in the buyer’s shoes. Is there too much of the owner’s memorabilia or tchotchkes in the house? Is it too sterile? How can she make the house inviting so the buyers can pick up on the vibe but also see themselves living there?

A good lyric writer adds just enough color and detail so the listener sees what you want them to see. If there is not enough color and detail, the listener is left to only imagine.

I know you’ve heard a song and felt it was telling your story. That’s good lyric writing. Too much detail and it’s only the writer’s story. Just enough and it becomes yours.

For more advice on writing good lyrics, you can find Song Journey on Amazon.

Mark Cawley is a hit songwriter who coaches other writers around the globe through his one-on-one, online service iDocoach.com. His songs have been on more than 16 million records with cuts ranging from Tina Turner to Wynonna Judd to The Spice Girls. Mark is a judge for the UK Songwriting Contest, Nashville Rising Star, Belmont University’s Commercial Music program, and West Coast Songwriter events. He’s also a contributing author to USA Songwriting and Songwriter Magazine, a sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, and a mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK. Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Mark now resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

Songwriting: The Real Stuff Is The Good Stuff

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This article was first published in USA Songwriting Competition and is, in part from my book “ Song Journey” to be released on April 2nd, 2019.

There is no one way to write a song. You may write melody first or mix it up but for our purposes, let’s start with writing your lyric.

 Prose

What’s a good place to start once you have a title or an idea of what you’re going to write about? Prose. Think about the title, say it out loud ... a bunch. What does it bring to mind? Got something? Take a few minutes and write the idea in prose. Don’t rhyme, don’t worry about being clever, just write a couple of lines describing what you’re going to write about. Lennon and McCartney could have written, “” Penny Lane” is about the images of everyday people on the street in my town and what they mean to me.” 

Prose serves a couple of purposes. As you write your lyric, check your prose to see if you’re still writing about one thing. Is everything supporting your idea? As you try to write, prose may reveal there's really nothing there. This has happened to me more than once, and I’m usually grateful I was saved from spending all day on a non-starter of an idea.

 Write…don’t “ write” !

The next step is a biggie and usually a big mistake. You begin to “write.” I mean write in a bad way. You don’t want to sound like just anybody, so you try to sound like a “writer.” I always think of the famous Saturday Night Live skit with Jon Lovitz as the Master Thespian. Just search YouTube for a few moments and you’ll get the idea. You don’t want to feel the sweat in your lyric.

Instead of jumping right in, try closing your eyes, think about your idea, and then write what you see. Don’t rhyme, don’t worry about cadence or how cool it looks on the page, just write. If you’re writing a song about meeting the love of your life talk about the time of day, name the place you met, what was the weather like? Color of her hair? Even the smallest detail can make the difference between a generic lyric and one that comes to life. If it’s a car what’s the make? These details make up the real stuff.  Write the real stuff because it’s the good stuff. You can make it pretty later. 

Remember the editor? Still dead. What do I mean? If you begin to self-edit in the moment it’s toxic. I’ve mentored songwriters who have found themselves stuck simply because they were focusing on a line or an idea way too early. Before they had enough on the page to even begin to think about the editing process. Write first, edit later. Much later.

 It’s the one thing

Hopefully you’re filling up that page now but once in a while, take a look at the prose you wrote earlier. Does everything in your lyric still support your prose? Does your third verse introduce a cat into the story of two people falling in lust? Hard choices, but the cat probably has to go. Again, most lyrics are about one thing. Prose can help you remember what that thing actually is.

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2019. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

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MARK CAWLEY IDOCOACH.COM

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Song a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark had written his first book, “Song Journey” to be released on April 2nd, 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.



 

A Minimalist Approach To Songwriting

iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

This is my workspace. Yep, it’s pretty clean and clutter free. I’m a minimalist these days. Now, I’ve had elaborate home studios and every piece of gear I could get my hands on over the years but, something changed. 

It began with our daughters going off to college. A disclaimer here. We lived in the Temple Hills area of Franklin, outside of Nashville, and our daughters enrolled at Belmont University, about 20 miles away from our home, but lived on campus. This was a great house for our family but it became apparent it was way more than we really needed. So we downsized, townhome style, which meant getting rid of a bunch of stuff. If you’ve ever been in this situation you know you have to make some serious concessions. Some things you can’t imagine living without…until you do.

Over 13 years later I have to say there is a freedom in decluttering. Even when it comes to songwriting. I found myself having more fun with less and less gear. Gear is great and served me well but I had hit a time of less is more in every way. Almost as if the fewer options I had the clearer the mission became. You know the saying a great song should hold up with just an acoustic guitar or piano? Maybe, but I do know it’s a terrific test of a solid song.

As I moved into coaching writers online, I took this new found approach even further. I created a workspace made up entirely of essentials. A great, simple desk*, laptop, pens, pencils and a few favorite coffee mugs. It felt like the more uncluttered the space the more uncluttered the thought process.  My wife gave me the little “inspire” piece in the picture and that’s been a huge part of my coaching decor :-) 

The great American choreographer Twyla Tharp wrote one of my favorite books called “The Creative Habit” and one of her suggestions for creating good work habits was to choose one thing to take away from your normal routine. To start, just for a week. Maybe something that seems necessary but might really be a distraction. She chose clocks. By not having them in her studio her eye wasn’t drawn to the limitation of time. She felt it freed her mind - her subconscious was able to be a little more creative. 

So what am I suggesting? Give some thought to where you create with an eye to just the essentials. See how it feels to purge here and there. Maybe you can maximize your creativity with a minimalist style.

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: iPhone

Bottom photo: Eric Brown

* Desk: Urban Woods

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2019. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com


MARK CAWLEY IDOCOACH.COM

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Song a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark is in the process of writing his first book, “Song Journey” to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.



Investing In Your Songwriting

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iDoCoach.com

I get lots of my inspiration for articles and blogs from things my songwriting coaching clients bring up in our sessions. Last week I had a writer say they couldn’t afford to pursue their songwriting because they simply didn’t have the funds. He let me know he was giving up . Period. I understand the discouragement but it opened up a conversation about why his bank balance and passion were related. They don’t have to be.

Usually when I’ve heard this it’s a case of too much money spent in the wrong places. Demoing songs that weren’t killer and face it…trying to polish a turd sometimes. No amount of money spent on production is going to make an “ok” song suddenly transform into a killer song. Do this often enough and you not only end up broke but pretty discouraged. Maybe to the point of giving up on your passion. That sucks.


The Plan

So, what can you do? Have a plan. Anytime I’ve met with my publishers over the years to play them a few new roughs the conversation turned to the need for a plan. A little strategic thinking. Who’s looking for a song like this? Do we have a path to get it to the producer, label or maybe even the artist? Does it need to be a full-blown production? Is it the type of song that could shine with a minimum of instrumentation? Guitar/vocal? Keys/vocal? Does the type of artist it suits actually take outside songs? Does this put a potential artist in a favorable light? Is there an artist that you can see slipping right into this song? All these questions are huge and ones you can ask yourself if the person trying to network the song is you.

We all love our babies but not all of them need to go to Ivy League schools. Some are community college songs, some are vocational school songs, and some are minimum wage songs. Think hard. Is your song worth an investment right now, as is? Pro songwriters don’t demo everything they write and neither should you.

Where To Invest?

Maybe that hard earned money would be better spent on attending a workshop, NSAI membership, joining songwriting groups, one on one coaching, new gear, a few books. Maybe it’s even saving up for a move to a music center. Whatever helps you get better is a good investment in my book. Maybe it’s music school. Some great ones out there, Belmont here in Nashville, Berklee in Boston, University of Miami, IU in Bloomington Indiana. Will a degree in music or songwriting guarantee a return on your investment? Nope. But all of these things improve the odds.  My point is this path you’re on is not about a roll of the dice. Nothing’s harder on the spirit then gambling and losing…big.  It’s about growth.  Gaining knowledge that you can eventually turn into inspiration gets you closer to a plan, a better shot and hopefully a sensible budget. It’s for sure that understanding all you can about your path helps keep you from having unrealistic expectations.

I’m not much of a believer in a plan B when it’s comes to the music business, you have to give it everything but … you can be smart about using your resources. At the end of the day, you have to invest in yourself and your talent but you can invest wisely for the long run. That’s a plan.


Your Passion

A last note about your wallet and your passion. My father-in-law passed away a few years back. A great guy with a huge passion for golf. The other thing he had was a realistic expectation. He knew to make a living for himself and his family he would have to be one amazing golfer. He’d have to sacrifice everything for his passion for it to become his career. Would he have loved to be a pro golfer? You bet. Somewhere along the line he probably felt he couldn’t afford the commitment. Did he give up the sport? No way. He played for the love of it, played as often as he could, invested in new clubs, golf outings, travel, books and instruction. I think he was happy to budget wisely to support his passion. He got better and better and enjoyed the game more and more as years went on. I’d call that another wise investment.

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2019. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

MARK CAWLEY IDOCOACHIts

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark is in the process of writing his first book, “Song Journey” to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.



Songwriting in 2019: Big Goals, Small Bites

iDoCoach BLog

iDoCoach BLog

We all like to set goals heading into a new year - it’s a natural thing. I also know that all of us songwriters are dreamers and dreamers don’t tend to think in terms of limitations. We dream big. But sometimes dreaming big set’s us up for some pretty big disappointments. In coaching songwriters every week it usually comes up sooner or later that this business is…hard!

Small BItes

What I suggest to my clients is to think in terms of attainable goals. Small bites to get them where they wanna go. The point is to think of your goals as “next steps”. Could the goal in 2019 be to co-write more? Make better demos? Write 3 killer songs and create a website where people can discover you? Create a network and get your songs in front of the powers that be? Make trips to a major music city? Sign up for a workshop? Learn a new instrument? These are all viable, doable, attainable goals.

Songwriting as a career is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re in this for the long run and along with gathering all the knowledge you can, you need affirmation along the way and achieving goals is a great way to feel like you’re closer to that big goal.


2 Tasks

I have two things I ask my songwriting clients to do and both might be good tools for you to consider heading into a brand new year. The first would be to answer these five questions:

      1. What do I want?

      2. Why do I want it?

      3. How will I get there?

      4. What tools will I need?

      5. Where am I now?

Your answers can shine a light on your goals and get you thinking about next steps.

The second task would be to come up with a short mission statement. You’ve seen or heard these for companies. Life Is Good has a simple one: “To spread the power of optimism.” Warby Parker, the eyeglass company, has this one: “To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.” You’re not a business but think about your goals as a songwriter. They’re not easy to write, but the more you can define and distill just who you are as a writer and your goals, the better choices you tend to make. When you write this think about your passions. What drives you to write songs? Your mission statement needs to include the things that fire you up. A mission statement is a great way to put those passions into words and words into action for 2019.


Song Journey

On a personal note I’ve always wanted to write a book and 2018 was finally the year to do it. The book is called Song Journey and has moved on to the layout and cover design stage with a release in April 2019. In working with my publisher, some of the best advice I received was not to be intimidated by the amount of writing involved but to think of it in terms like “writing 250 words a day.” The book ended up being around 44,000 words and if I had focused on that number instead of the more attainable chapter-by-chapter idea, I think I would have lost my mind. Small bites. Big goal . . . attained.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and an amazing new year!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2019. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

Mark Cawley iDoCoach

Mark Cawley iDoCoach

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark is in the process of writing his first book to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.













Acknowledging The Ones Behind Your Song

iDoCoach Blog 20/11/18

iDoCoach Blog 20/11/18


Take stock

It’s Thanksgiving time again here in the US. Time to take stock. I could talk about all the things I’m thankful for but this is a songwriting blog so I’ll stay on point. You’re a songwriter and I’m guessing no matter where you are on this creative journey you haven’t traveled alone. You’ve had friends, loved ones, husbands, wives, maybe even kids and all manner of family riding along. Maybe you’re at a point where you have co-writers, band mates, teachers, industry friends, maybe even a publisher helping you, encouraging you to “just write.”

You need them all. Writing can seem like a solitary thing, spending all that time in your head and it can also get a little lonely in there. This is where those folks come in. 


”Some have gone and some remain”

I’ve just finished writing my first book. It’s called “Song Journey “ and will be released in the first quarter of 2019. It’s based on the coaching I do with songwriters  around the world and it’s very story driven. Writing those stories brought back some ghosts. I’ve been doing this a long time so there are bound to be those people who are long gone from my day to day memory but  bringing them back through writing the book has been an exercise in thankfulness. I’m grateful for every one of those fellow travelers I mentioned, from the guys I played in garage bands with to the family members who suffered through those early, awful attempts at songwriting to the co-writers who helped me actually get better at this thing. Too many to mention and too many to thank for me and I hope for you too.

Make your own list

I’m gonna recommend a way to bring these people to life in your memory. Think about your own life as a book, sit down and write the acknowledgment section…today. Don’t think too hard, there will be the obvious ones but your subconscious will open up another contact book as you go. Take as long as you need to make this list of people who have helped you get to where you are on your path as a songwriter. Take some time to reflect on each one. It’s amazing the memories that will flood over you and the realization that even though you might feel you’ve been coming up with all these ideas and songs on your own, you’ve had help. A whole lot of help. 

You’ve been on your own song journey and now’s a great time to give thanks to all your guides.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2018 and 2019. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

MARK CAWLEY IDOCOACH.COM

Mark Cawley iDoCoach

Mark Cawley iDoCoach

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark is in the process of writing his first book to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.




Are Your Songs Stuck On "Nice"?

iDoCoach Blog

iDoCoach Blog

The Kiss on The Cheek

I’m coaching songwriters, worldwide, every week and one of the most common complaints I hear in the beginning is they feel stuck. Not talking writer’s block in this case, more that they’ve been digging in, learning tools, getting their songs out there and the feedback they’re getting is the dreaded “nice” comment. Nice is a kiss on the cheek, nice is “good effort”, or “you really know your craft”. Nice is “I like it, I just don’t LOVE it.” Nice is good and good is the enemy of great. To get to that next level your song needs to be great. Period.

Maybe when you’ve hit this stage you feel writing has gotten harder or not as much fun as it was when you took joy in just being able to come up with a fully formed idea. The more tools you’ve been picking up, the more knowledge you’ve accumulated the more tough choices you have. All good until you find yourself hitting a wall. It becomes a battle. “My song is as good as what I’m hearing on the radio”, “my friends love my song”, “ I’ve put in the hours”…may all be true but you still get the “nice” comment more often than not.


Original ??

Good place to stop now and remember you’re no longer dealing with just the music, you’re dealing with the music business. You might be getting heard by the powers-that-be who are hearing tons of songs every day in a place like Nashville for instance. You might be ticking every box except for one. The one labeled “original idea”. You can write the most heartfelt love song, killer melody or even come up with a “radio ready” demo but if that person behind the desk sniffs out the least bit of “I’ve heard this before” you’re headed for “nice”. It hurts sometimes because it usually isn’t for a lack of craft or talent at this stage. It’s just not an original idea. I don’t mean gimmicky, I mean the idea or twist in the idea, that makes someone want to love it. 

I know you could argue that lots of what you’re hearing is not great, or not all that unique and you could have a case but…if you’re hoping to stand out from the crowd, including the signed writers, be objective and see if your song is fresh. Fresh is better than nice every time.

If you’re at this stage you know how to write a song. Don’t let the competition part cause you to lose that sense of play. The next step is to play great, don’t play nice!

Mark Cawley

Nashville, Tennessee

Image: Shutterstock

I was pleased to be voted the #4 Songwriting blog worldwide recently. Check it out here.

if you'd like to stay up with iDoCoach including receiving the latest blogs and my favorite 7 Toolbox tips here ya go!

http://idocoach.com/email-newsletter

I'm currently coaching writers worldwide, online, one on one and taking new clients for 2018 and 2019. Visit my website for more info www.idocoach.com or write to me at mark@idocoach.com

Check out this interview in this edition of M Music and Musicians Magazine for stories behind a few of my songs!

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

Mark Cawley iDoCoach.com

Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals through iDoCoach.com. During his decades in the music business he has procured a long list of cuts with legendary artists ranging from Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross to Wynonna Judd, Kathy Mattea, Russ Taff, Paul Carrack, Will Downing, Tom Scott, Billie Piper, Pop Idol winners and The Spice Girls. To date his songs have been on more than 16 million records. . He is also a judge for Nashville Rising Star, a contributing author to  USA Songwriting Competition, Songwriter Magazine, sponsor for the Australian Songwriting Association, judge for Belmont University's Commercial Music program and West Coast Songwriter events , Mentor for The Songwriting Academy UK, a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops including ASCAP, BMI and Sweetwater Sound. Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 23 years in Nashville, TN. Mark is in the process of writing his first book to be released in early 2019 based on his coaching and adventures in songwriting.