Feb 06, 2013, 08:15 PM
I guess no one probably remembers this thread, since it was a year ago. I had a couple of hard drive crashes which wiped out some of my old web sites, passwords, etc. So I am just getting back here. Forgive me if no one is interested but I thought I might address it.
This is one of those questions that come up all the time, in that “How did that crap get on the radio, my songs are as good as that… how does this all work?” All these things have validity. Please bear with me.
To address the topic “Why do these things break the rules of songwriting books?” The answer is that you are not going to find hit songs in books, workshops, seminars, private lessones, etc. And in full disclosure, I have written a book, “Freshman Year in Nashville” which covers some do’s and don’t's of making trips, moving or just building relationships in the town and music business. And I do teach songwriting and music business workshops and do seminars. I did know John Brahaney, the writer of “The Craft and Business of Writing” (He recently passed away) and know Jason Blume, “6 Steps to Songwriting Success. I know most of the writers and teachers around.
Writing books is something we all do if we feel there is a demand for it. It starts with an idea and some people work on them for years. Some are published,most are not. Books are written from the perspective of the writer’s experience, and tips they have gleaned from experience they pass on. They give examples and are there to devise a framework of how things work. But there is a time to get out of the books, the classroom and get into the real world. At that time you find what you are whitnessing on radio. That most songs either bend the framework to work for themselves, or adapt a style to their own and build from there.
The question of “How do those get on the radio” is actually the billion dollar question. Everyone would love to know that, especially record labels, publishers and artists, because if they could formulate it down to perfection, they would only release the things that work, and not what really happens, that out of every 10-12 songs or acts, released only one or two will actually be successful. The successes pay for all the failures. Most of the time there is no rhyme or reason to it.
It can be a number of things. Last year Taylor Swift had one of the biggest records of the year. “RED” was a huge seller, gathering airplay, and it was everywhere. Taylor was partnered with Target, so her commercials were everywhere you looked. She was on all the awards, talk show circuits. She was on concert tour. “RED” was in every magazine, on billboards, and her songs were getting consistant airplay and her fans lapped it up. She peppered this with continuous information on her love life, dating Kennedy’s,etc. She was everywhere.
At the same time, there are many acts released on labels, majors, independents, etc; that get the same promotional money, (about $2.5 million to launch a modern artist) and pressed those artists to be played. Everyone doesn’t get played, doesn’t relate to the audience, and simply fails. Nobody can actually tell.
You mention about the songs “would get shot down in critiques, etc” and I can assure you, they probably were. Every act you see out there, every song, every singer, every writer, had things shot down over and over. One of the biggest groups currently is LITTLE BIG TOWN. They had a huge hit last year with “PONTOON”, their ode to summer pontoon boats. Was the perfect summer song and crossed into several charts.
But Little Big Town is on their THIRD record deal. They were dropped by two other companies because they didn;t sell. What are they doing now they weren’t doing then? Probably nothing. Just worked this time.
The same happens with a lot of things. You find hit songs like “House that Built Me” for Miranda Lambert” that was 13 years old by the time it was cut. It had been turned down all over the place.
Likewise, if you are around music a lot, you will hear a ton of artists, songs, writers that are amazing, yet still don’t get out there. Or if they get out there, they just don’t resonate with the public. Yet you can release something like “Ghanam Style” by PSY or FRIDAY"S by Rebecca Black, which are pieces of crap, and they get cajillion of hits on You Tube, become electronic greeting cards, and are all the rage for their 15 minutes of fame. Go figure.
There are something like 12 billion songs a year released worldwide. Less than 500 sell more than 10,000 copies. So getting anything that is being played, particularly on terrestrial radio, is on the charts, and getting attention, is resonating with somebody. You might not like it, but someone sure is. Radio doesn’t waste time on things that don’t bring in advertising revenue. And major companies don’t remain major companies by promoting failure. They have stockholders.
So, to answer your question, you will probably always find things that “break (or bend) the rules. Your job is to hopefully find enough of the rules to fit what you want to do, then be able to adapt them to work for you.