How to Write Songs That Stick!

Below is an excerpt from an e-course I subscribe to by Morgan Cryer. Morgan is a Nashville based songwriter who has had airplay and hits on commercial radio.

That said, he is also a songwriting coach amd internet marketer. He’s the author of the e-book Strong Song Writing. I don’t pay attention to most e-books, but Morgan’s seems different. He cares more about providing in-depth guidance than fluffy content.

I don’t own his book, yet, but I do plan on purchasing it very soon because my next big music endeavor is going to be based around songwriting. 

So if your main focus in this business is writing songs you’re going to want to pay attention to my next few Round Ups. They’re going to be all about how to sculpt the best song you can write – every time.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy Morgan’s view on starting your song strong.

 

GET DOWN TO BUSINESS IMMEDIATELY

By Morgan Cryer

Morgan Cryer

Songwriter, Morgan cryer

One of the most overlooked secrets to writing strong songs is so simple you’ll think it’s stupid.   And yet it’s so important that I don’t know why songwriting authors and “teachers” have not made more of a big deal of it.

Here it is:  ALWAYS start your songs strong.

It sounds too simple to even be called it a “tip.” I can hear you saying it,
“Everybody knows that!”

But do they?  Out of 100 songs I hear at writer’s events, 97 of them will have weak first lines (actually weak first and second lines).  Just think of how crazy this is.  You book a flight, pay a registration fee, make sure you’re in the right room for the critique session, and then you patiently wait through all the other writers’ stuff.

It’s finally your turn!  They announce your song title and your name, and press
“play.”  ALL EARS ARE ON YOUR SONG!  AND…because you didn’t
start strong, all that rapt attention just bleeds out into the carpet while your first
two lines dribble out of the speakers like warm mayonnaise.

No (or low) impact.  By the time your lyric gets up to speed it’s too late.
The audience has quietly slipped you into the “just another wanna-be songwriter”
category along with 96 other people.

**Actually, you have 2 other “first impression” chances even before they hear
your first lyrics:  1) Your intro, which should “arrest” everyone quickly and reset
their mood, …even before that, 2) The moment you walk onto the stage, or into
the room, or into the publishing company office, your personal presence can
greatly help or hurt your chances of being taken seriously.

In my book, Strong Songwriting, I go into great detail about how to “ace”
all these first impressions.  You can check that out by clicking here.

How to write songs that stick!

WHAT ARE YOU SHOOTING FOR?

Your goal is not to make every song’s first line into an epic event.  Sometimes a song calls for an understated beginning.  However, understated is not the same thing as boring or un-engaging.

Here’s what I believe you should shoot for in EVERY first line you allow out of the house:

“Your first line should entice, dare, tease, or otherwise promise the listener that if they will listen to the next 3 lines, they will be happy they did.”

Remember that a song is a two-way communication.  A listener must literally give your song the time of day to even experience it.  If you don’t make (and keep) a worthwhile promise right up front, a split-second decision will be made
to bypass your song.  So keep this simple thought in your mind:

“Make the promise in the first few seconds, then keep the promise with the rest of the song.”

For Morgan’s next tip, he’ll talk about the simple differences between boring songs and interesting songs.

To be a successful musician you have to network.

In today’s world of social media it’s still a great idea to go out and meet people face-to-face. I love meeting new people online and sharing our common experiences within the business of music. There’s never been a greater time than now to mingle with other musicians around the world. But wouldn’t it be better to meet in person while having a beer?  

In the article below, Leena Sowambur over at MTT tells us How to Talk To Strangers.

How To Talk To Strangers

BY: LEENA SOWAMBUR

Networking in the music business

You can't go it alone. You have to network.

Networking online or in person (eventually it is necessary to do in person) involves talking to complete random strangers. People you don’t know, people who might be untrustworthy, people who might have an agenda, people who might take from you, people who might steal from you, people who might harm you. We don’t like talking to strangers. Strangers are bad. Strangers will hurt you. Strangers have negative associations.

Yet we are all strangers to other people.

I’m not a shy person. I’m outgoing, chatty, and extroverted. I still don’t like talking to arbitrary unfamiliar, alien people. Why? I was always told not to talk to strangers as a child. As children our parents drum that rule into us, and it’s a good thing. We need to be aware of danger. However, we also need to be aware that the psychological tools that we needed to keep us safe as kids are not always appropriate in the varying situations we find ourselves in as adults.

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Down and Dirty with G. Love: Writing Songs

Whenever I work with a young artist I stress the facts that it’s not about the gear, the studio, the producer or anything external to your original intention of what you’re creating. You are making art so make it the most it can be without worrying about what others will tell you they think it should be. If they are so good at making music then they should go ahead and make their own art. In the meantime you, as the working artist making your mark on the world of music, should only focus on what you want to bring into this world. That being your version of the art that you are making for your fans and yourself. 

Below is G Love’s version of the same conversation. As someone who’s been writing music for quite a while now he certainly knows the difference between what people think makes a great record and what really makes a great song.

It’s all about the song.

By G. Love 

G. Love songwrting advice.

G. Love songwrting advice.

Its all about the songs, its all about the songs. Its a line you hear a lot when we talk about successes and failures in music.

Ultimately, you will succeed or fail based on your ability to write great songs. All of my talk about business hustle, practicing your guitar, life on the road and everything else really doesnt matter if you dont have the songs to back it up.

Hendrix, Clapton, Page and all the great guitar players were obviously masters of their instrument, but the fact is there are a thousand guitar players who can play that good. The main reason we know and idolize these masters of guitar are their songs.

Jimi Hendrix could’ve just been another unsung excellent guitar player in someone elses band if he hadn’t written his first smash single and blown up overnight. We love and can sing Jimmy Pages guitar parts by heart, but we wouldnt even know all those riffs and solos if Page and Plant hadnt written the greatest songs of all time. In the end, its the song.

I write songs. Day in and day out, they wake me up in the morning, I dream them, they give me inspiration and make the hairs stand on the back of my neck. They can make me happy, they can piss me off and frustrate the hell out of me. Writing songs gives me a reason to live. I always think about my songs as my children. You have a burst of creativity — ahhhh, that felt good, and then bang — another song is born.

This is a great article and I suggest the serious songwriter to continue reading it over at Guitar World.

Surround Sound Mixing – Part 5 of 5

This is a guest post by mix engineer, Unne Lilijeblad over at www.mix-engineer.com. This is the fifth and final article in a five part series about his experience with mixing in this still under utilized medium for listening to music. Last week it was Mixing in Surround. This week he talks about Multi Stereo Surround.

Unne Lilijeblad - Mix Engineer
Unne Lilijeblad – Mix Engineer

 

MSS – Multi Stereo Surround
With all of these issues and potential problems in mind, I developed a new mixing method that can help achieve better results. A good friend of mine came up with a name for it: MSS, for Multi Stereo Surround, since the technique involves creating multiple stereo images between the various surround speakers. Recording in stereo using the previously mentioned techniques gives excellent results, and unlike their surround equivalents, they are not very complicated to setup. Using two microphones for a piano, drum overheads, and acoustic guitars etc, is very common, and most recording engineers are already doing it. Additionally, both plugin and external reverb and delay effects all output their results in stereo.

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The science of music: What makes a song ‘catchy’?

If you’ve worked with me or know me personally (or both) you know that I have a pop music sensibility. I really love a song with a great hook. The catchier the better for me. And I’ve been very lucky lately because I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of working with some amazing songwriters.

One in particular I call “The Hit Maker”. His songs have more hooks than a tackle box! This got me thinking about what makes a catchy song, well, catchy? Some will say it’s the melody while others believe it’s the lyrics. Personally I think it’s both, but there has to be something more, right? To find out I did a some research about the science of music and found the article below. It’s written by Tibi Puiu over at ZME Science. If you’re as fascinated with music as I am I think you’ll find this one to be very interesting.

Written by Tibi Puiu
Musicologist Dr. Alison Pawley and psychologist Dr. Daniel Mullensiefen out at the University of London have dabbled into the difficult task of scientifically determining what makes people sing along to certain tunes. Their research has lead them to claim that there are various factors that make a song catchy, and in the process have compiled a list of the UK’s top 10 sing-along songs.

Mullensiefen said, “Every musical hit is reliant on maths, science, engineering and technology, from the physics and frequencies of sound that determine pitch and harmony, to the hi-tech digital processors and synthesisers that can add effects to make a song more catchy.

“We’ve discovered that there’s a science behind the sing-along and a special combination of neuroscience, maths and cognitive psychology can produce the elusive elixir of the perfect sing-along song. We hope that our study will inspire musicians of the future to crack the equation for the textbook tune.”

The researchers conclusion was that there are four traits that make a song catchy:

  1. Longer and detailed musical phrases. The breath a vocalist takes as they sing a line is crucial to creating a sing-along-able tune. The longer a vocal in one breath, the more likely we are to sing along.
  2. Higher number of pitches in the chorus hook. The more sounds there are, the more infectious a song becomes. Combining longer musical phrases and a hook over three different pitches was found to be key to sing-along success
  3. Male vocalists. Singing along to a song may be a subconscious war cry, tapping into an inherent tribal part of our consciousness. Psychologically we look to men to lead us into battle, so it could be in our intuitive nature to follow male-fronted songs.
  4. Higher male voices with noticeable vocal effort. This indicates high energy and purpose, particularly when combined with a smaller vocal range (Freddie Mercury of Queen and Jon Bon Jovi).
“Freddie Mercury possessed all the necessary frontman skills to write and perform a “catchy” song.”

You can read the rest of the article as well as a list of Top 10 UK singles that include the criteria above over at ZME Science.

The Problem With Music by Steve Albini

For those of you who’s only dream is to get a record deal I highly suggest you read this article. It’s from the 90′s, but the story is practically the same today.

Thanks to the folks over at Negativland.com for sharing it with us. They wrote “This oft-referenced article is from the early ’90s, and originally appeared in Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll magazine. While some of the information and figures listed here are dated, it is still a useful and informative article. And no, we don’t know how to reach Steve Albini.”

The Problem With Music

by Steve Albini

Steve Albini

Steve Albini is not happy with record companies.

Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed. Nobody can see what’s printed on the contract. It’s too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody’s eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there’s only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says “Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim again, please. Backstroke”. And he does of course.

Every major label involved in the hunt for new bands now has on staff a high-profile point man, an “A & R” rep who can present a comfortable face to any prospective band. The initials stand for “Artist and Repertoire.” because historically, the A & R staff would select artists to record music that they had also selected, out of an available pool of each. This is still the case, though not openly. These guys are universally young [about the same age as the bands being wooed], and nowadays they always have some obvious underground rock credibility flag they can wave.

This is a very long and interesting article so I’m going to cut to the chase. A band got a deal and found money being thrown at them and taken from them at an astounding rate with many people taking a cut. In the end, per Albini, “the band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11…”

 

Advance: $ 250,000
Manager’s cut: $ 37,500
Legal fees: $ 10,000
Recording Budget: $ 150,000
Producer’s advance: $ 50,000
Studio fee: $ 52,500
Drum Amp, Mic and Phase “Doctors”: $ 3,000
Recording tape: $ 8,000
Equipment rental: $ 5,000
Cartage and Transportation: $ 5,000
Lodgings while in studio: $ 10,000
Catering: $ 3,000
Mastering: $ 10,000
Tape copies, reference CDs, shipping tapes, misc. expenses: $ 2,000
Video budget: $ 30,000
Cameras: $ 8,000
Crew: $ 5,000
Processing and transfers: $ 3,000
Off-line: $ 2,000
On-line editing: $ 3,000
Catering: $ 1,000
Stage and construction: $ 3,000
Copies, couriers, transportation: $ 2,000
Director’s fee: $ 3,000
Album Artwork: $ 5,000
Promotional photo shoot and duplication: $ 2,000
Band fund: $ 15,000
New fancy professional drum kit: $ 5,000
New fancy professional guitars [2]: $ 3,000
New fancy professional guitar amp rigs [2]: $ 4,000
New fancy potato-shaped bass guitar: $ 1,000
New fancy rack of lights bass amp: $ 1,000
Rehearsal space rental: $ 500
Big blowout party for their friends: $ 500
Tour expense [5 weeks]: $ 50,875
Bus: $ 25,000
Crew [3]: $ 7,500
Food and per diems: $ 7,875
Fuel: $ 3,000
Consumable supplies: $ 3,500
Wardrobe: $ 1,000
Promotion: $ 3,000
Tour gross income: $ 50,000
Agent’s cut: $ 7,500
Manager’s cut: $ 7,500
Merchandising advance: $ 20,000
Manager’s cut: $ 3,000
Lawyer’s fee: $ 1,000
Publishing advance: $ 20,000
Manager’s cut: $ 3,000
Lawyer’s fee: $ 1,000
Record sales: 250,000 @ $12 =
$3,000,000
Gross retail revenue Royalty: [13% of 90% of retail]:
$ 351,000
Less advance: $ 250,000
Producer’s points: [3% less $50,000 advance]:
$ 40,000
Promotional budget: $ 25,000
Recoupable buyout from previous label: $ 50,000
Net royalty: $ -14,000

Record company income:

 

Record wholesale price: $6.50 x 250,000 =
$1,625,000 gross income
Artist Royalties: $ 351,000
Deficit from royalties: $ 14,000
Manufacturing, packaging and distribution: @ $2.20 per record: $ 550,000
Gross profit: $ 7l0,000

The Balance Sheet: This is how much each player got paid at the end of the game.

 

Record company: $ 710,000
Producer: $ 90,000
Manager: $ 51,000
Studio: $ 52,500
Previous label: $ 50,000
Agent: $ 7,500
Lawyer: $ 12,000
Band member net income each: $ 4,031.25

 

“The band is now 1/4 of the way through its contract, has made the music industry more than 3 million dollars richer, but is in the hole $14,000 on royalties. The band members have each earned about 1/3 as much as they would working at a 7-11…”

You can read everything that happened in between here, The Problem With Music.