I was part of a songwriting panel a few years back that included an A&R guy. Eventually, the info turned to Q&A with one writer asking about the importance of a good title. The A&R guy shared a scenario about looking for a song for an established artist. He explained the process, and mentioned the 50+ songs currently on his desk.
The process starts with a call to the writers who have written this artist's past hits, followed by a call to the hot writers of the day. Somewhere in between come the songs written by various writers signed to publishing companies owned by the artist or producer; and of course, the songs co-written by the artist. Because the artist is no fool.
After all this, maybe (just maybe), there's room for one outside song, something no one else has come up with. Something so unique it not only hasn’t been written but it hasn’t been imagined. THIS is the unsigned songwriter's best chance.
Keep in mind our guy is looking for a hit single…only a hit single. It's a minor miracle the unsigned writer's song has actually made it to the desk--but that's another blog! So…the A&R guy's time is valuable, and no way he’s going to make it through all these songs. Now to his big point: if he looks over the pile and spies a song called So In Love and another titled I Killed My Ex With His Own Axe, which one gets his attention? You guessed it.
At this point, more than a few writers in the audience got a bit P.O.'d. But what if the “love” song is the best one ever? Does every title need to be a gimmick? (And of course),This is so unfair! He’s gonna play the "axe" song at least through the first chorus, just because he wants to know how the writer is going to pull this title off. It’s intriguing! Same with book titles, movie titles, and on and on. The object is to get you to open the book, see the movie…pull you in.
You can find a million examples of hit songs with basic and even boring titles, but if we’re talking about the first-time unsigned writer, the odds go way up with an interesting title.
Doesn't stop there, obviously. You’ll need a concept (or two). One of the biggest country hits this year is the song Girl Crush by Little Big Town. The title was so hot you wanted to hear this idea, but the writer's concept was different than the one your brain probably went to. In the wrong hands, the title could have been a one trick pony; instead it becomes a great lyric about jealousy.
Back to the 'axe' song. What if our guy gets to the chorus and finds the axe is really slang word guitar? You can groan here, but hey, it’s a concept. It's more unique than your first impression, and unique is what you’re after.
The Big Idea
I’ve written lots of songs' titles first, followed by chorus, followed by fill in the details. It’s only one way to conceive of your song...but it’s one proven concept and a great idea!
Check out this link to the writers of Girl Crush talking about the song's creation.
July 28. 2015
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About Mark Cawley
Mark Cawley is a hit U.S. songwriter and musician who coaches other writers and artists to reach their creative and professional goals. 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 15 million records. Mark’s resume includes hits on the Pop, Country, R&B, Jazz, and Rock charts and several publishing deals with the likes of Virgin, Windswept Pacific, and Steelworks/Universal. Mark calls on his decades of experience in the publishing world, as an artist on major labels, co-writer with everyone from Eliot Kennedy and Burt Bacharach to Simon Climie and Kye Fleming, composing, and recording to mentor clients around the globe with iDoCoach. He is also a judge for this years UK Songwriting Contest, New England Songwriter Search , a contributing author to the USA Songwriting Competition a popular blogger and, from time to time, conducts his own workshops.
Born and raised in Syracuse, NY, Mark has also lived in Boston, L.A., Indianapolis, London, and the last 20 years in Nashville, TN.