Why A Part 2?
I’ve gotten so many comments on the last blog, "Everybody's Talkin At Me", about how to incorporate all the different critiques and opinions you get when you put yourself out there, that I thought I'd share some more thoughts. I’ve heard from current and past clients, but most have come via the Facebook songwriting groups I belong to. It's a bigger (or at least more far reaching) problem than I imagined. Rules are constantly changing. It makes sense; we're in a soundbite society where people take in music in a new way. It's bound to affect how music is made, songs are written, and what's expected of us now.
Writers are getting critiques with terms like "post-chorus", "multiple choruses", getting asked to "lose the 2nd verse before a chorus", "lose the bridge", etc. Do you change the way you write to adapt? Depends.
There are a couple of schools of thought. Write what you write and write it well and its time will come around. The other is that if you want to actually make a living now from songwriting, your best chance is to follow the newest trends.
This is something I've heard from lots of writers going to workshops and seminars or using critique services. "I'm being told to focus on what's on the radio--but at the same time told that by the time I've nailed it, radio will have changed". There's logic here. Nothing happens quickly in this process. Your song gets picked up and goes through the phases from production to release, which could be a year down the road. Not to mention the time you spent writing and pitching it! Things change. If you're writing Bro-Country, for instance, it may have run its course long before you’re ready.
So Should I ?
So what's your best chance of success? Unless you're locked in with a publisher, producers, management or THE ARTIST (your best case scenario), you need to be writing something no one’s thought of. Something so original and irresistible that all the usual suspects didn't see it first.
Where do you start? Finding something unique to "write about" is a start. Sure, most songs have to do with love. Lost love, found love, lookin’ for love...can you come up with a different angle? Can you come up with a topic, story, or emotion no one’s thought of before? Tough one, but that's part of your gig.
Titles are another great place to start. Some publishers call them "concepts " but we're essentially talkin’ about that idea or title that makes someone want to know more. To want to open the book, see the movie, hear the song.
I was on a panel awhile back when a publisher addressed the group and said something to the effect of, "if I have a hundred CDs on my desk and not much time to listen, do you think I'm gonna play the one called ‘I Still Love You’, or ‘My Tractor Thinks I'm Sexy‘?”.
Most co-writing I've done in Nashville over the years involved talking first. A lot of talking. Sometimes a couple days of talking to find something unique to write about. I once spent two full days with Craig Wiseman at my house just telling each other about our lives. Trying to find the hook. At that point it's a given: you both know how to write, and that it has to be a cool idea to begin with to have any hope of standing out.
The Bottom Top LIne
I've also spent years writing in the UK and they have a unique term for the person who comes up with the title or the concept. A top-line person. I think the concept has spread to all forms of music as we get distracted by more and more choices; gotta make it stand out. Valuable talent. One of my coaching clients heard the term "Golden Ticket” recently to describe this particular talent. Just may be.
Share Your Stories, Please!
It would be great if you could share your own stories about getting critiques, workshops, seminars, coaching. What do you tend to hear? Is it helpful, sometimes hurtful? How have you dealt with criticism of your songs? Best advice you've had?
SmallBusiness.com just featured my coaching in an article this week. Check it out if you'd like to get an idea of what I do!
If you're looking for a differnt take or just more info on Songwriting I would highly reccomend my buddy Shelly Peikens site as well as some of the articles posted by Clay Mills and Marty Dodson at Songtown USA on Facebook. Good stuff!
August 22 , 2014
Quotes courtesy of Harry Nilsson
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About Mark Cawley
Mark Cawley's songs have appeared on more than 15 million records. Over a career based in LA, London, and Nashville his songs have been recorded by an incredibly diverse range of artists. From Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Diana Ross and Chaka Kahn to The Spice Girls, Tom Scott, Kathy Mattea, Paul Carrack, Will Downing and Pop Idol winners in the UK. He has had #1 records in the UK and throughout Europe as well as cuts in Country, Jazz & R & B. His groundbreaking website Song Journey created with Hall of Fame writer Kye Fleming was the first to mentor writers from around the world one-on-one online. He is currently writing and publishing as well as helping writers and artists worldwide with a one-on-one co-active coaching service, iDoCoach. In addition he is a judge for this years UK Songwriting Contest, a contributing writer to the US Songwriting Competition , a popular songwriting blogger and from time to time, conducts his own workshops.