My newest song, “The Winning Ticket.” Recording a full band demo in a couple of weeks. I’ll post the link to that when I do.
Okay, you just wrote the next “big hit.” What’s the next step?
Many songwriters can’t wait to perform their new tune to the next showcase or open mic to get immediate feedback. We salve our consciences by thinking that we need audience response for our new creation. Let’s take a minute to look at these types of venues.
First of all, they are all unpaid. That means some venue is getting money from the people who are attending, usually from food and drink. Granted, places that don’t serve booze aren’t making that much money but they are still making more than the performers.
Secondly, you are getting feedback from fellow musicians, not really your target audience, unless you mostly write songs about writing songs. If you bring a cadre of friends to hear your performance, they’ll applaud. The other performers and their friends will give you a few polite claps even if you just performed the next Stairway to Heaven. They don’t want you to get more applause than they do when they perform their new “hit.”
Here in Northern California we have a huge population of aging hippies who write seemingly endless songs with no structure. Most just go on and on about some really bad break up. Finding a well crafted song at one of these events is a difficult as finding a melody in a Kanye West “song.” The concepts of verse, chorus, bridge and hooks are unknown to many people who call themselves songwriters these days.
It’s interesting in this geographic area. These long, angst-ridden, ersatz songs win songwriter contests out here. While many of my songs are beginning to be covered by country artists in Nashville and elsewhere, I’ve been told my songs are “too commercial.” Yeah, heaven forbid I should try to write something people will like. At least they won’t want to slit their wrists when they hear my stuff. Can’t say the same for ones written by the aging hippies.
Hey, you who wrote the song about your broken heart – if you showered regularly and washed your clothes maybe the love of your life could stand to be near you! There’s a lot of body odor at the showcase and open mic events out here. (Cue the song “Flowers in Your Hair.”)
So, if you can’t get immediate feedback from the hygienically challenged, what can you do once you’ve written your “hit?” Before you start to write it, make sure you understand the basics of verse, chorus, bridge and a hook. There are a lot of really good books about songwriting. Read one or, even better, take a songwriting course at a local college or other continuing education program in your area.
Once you’re comfortable with the basics of songwriting, listen to the radio, concentrating on the genre you want to write. What works? What doesn’t? When you are comfortable with your chosen genre, write about what you know. Write the truth! Jim Croce hit it big when he started writing about people and things he knew. His previous rambling love songs had fallen flat with the public.
After you finish your “hit,” put it away for a day or two. Make sure you have a rough recording of it. Most smart phones will do that. Nothing worse that writing the next “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” only to forget it the next day. Write down a rough chord and lyric sheet too.
When you go back and listen to your song ask yourself questions like, “Will people understand what I mean?” “Is the melody innovative and strong?” “Does it sound conversational?” “Did I force that rhyme?” Edit, edit, edit! Put it aside for another day and repeat the process. Record every version you create.
Once you are happy with the finished product, find a demo studio and have a professional demo produced. I have sung the praises of a couple in a previous blog. http://www.tunedesigner.com/ http://nashvillesongrecording.com/Home_Page.html
There might be good demo services in your area. Check the Internet. A good demo will cost anywhere from $450 to a few thousand dollars, depending on how involved it is.
Should you sing the demo yourself? If you’re the next Adele, George Jones or Frank Sinatra, yes. Otherwise, use a professional vocalist. Most studios will offer professional singers as part of their service. It really does make a difference. And if you’re using an out-of-town facility, you pretty much have to use their singers unless you want to fly in for a session.
Song plugging services are a good way to get your song to the right ears. There are many on the Internet. I have had the best success with SongU https://songu.com/ There are many other services. Most, like SongU, offer online courses which are a great way to hone your craft. Many will also offer professional critiques of simple voice and instrument demos. Having professional input before you commit to a full blown demo is a very cost effective idea.
There is a song plugging service called Taxi. I belonged for a year. They use their own screeners who listen to your songs before forwarding them to the right ears. While it’s a subjective opinion, I found their screeners to be unnecessarily nasty and somewhat inaccurate. Some of my songs that they absolutely hated are currently being recorded by some major country artists. I really did not like their service or their attitude.
Get ready for rejections regardless of how you pitch your songs to publishers, producers and artists. If your songs are good, someone will record them. It may take hundreds of rejections (I had over 400 “no’s” before my first “yes”), but persistence pays off.
Good luck and keep writing! You should be writing every day, after you shower.
©2016 Steve Bryant – No portion may be copied, reprinted or broadcast in any medium without express written consent of the author.