Written by Gary Ewer, Senior Instructor, Dalhousie University, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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Have you noticed that many of today’s TV ads use pop songs from the 70s and 80s to sell everything from floor cleaners to passenger vans? It’s part of marketing strategy: figure out who’s likely to buy the product, then give them a song from their youth to make them feel warm and fuzzy. You can use a similar strategy to market your own songs and build an audience that follows you.
We all know the power of songs: say something to someone, and they might listen to you. Sing it to them, and you’ll pull in many listeners simply by the emotions that music can generate.
Music has the power to take people into a realm that words can’t do on their own. When the Beatles would do a live concert, people fainted before they even heard a note. Now that’s power.
Music has a way of taking your message and making it stronger.
If you’re a singer-songwriter in your teens or early 20s, your message is going to be heard and appreciated by the 14-24-year-old demographic. And that’s a huge chunk of the market.
But what if you’re older than that? You’re arguably writing even better music, because you’ve got years of experience and skills that have honed you into the composer you’ve become. But your message is starting to get dated. No 15-year-old will want to hear a 45-year-old sing about their love life. So what do you do? Sing about your mortgage payments?
Your first step needs to be to appeal to those listeners who are in your own demographic. And that should be relatively easy. Songwriters in the older (i.e. 30 and above) age bracket don’t write so much about parties, drinking, and “I need him/her so bad..”. They tend to write more about love on a more sophisticated level, about children and social justice. They write about relationships in a philosophical way, possibly more as observers than as participants.
But what can you do to start to pull in younger listeners? Here are some tips:
- Find a songwriting partner from a younger demographic, someone who can finesse lyrics into something younger people will get.
- Sometimes simply having your songs sung by a young person is all it takes to add the necessary freshness to your tunes. Ideally, that songwriting partner from Tip #1 above could be that singer.
- Listen to today’s hit songs, and make careful note of the instruments, rhythms and percussive techniques being used. It’s simply called “updating your sound”, and it’s crucial if you want to pull in younger listeners.
- When recording, bring young people into the production process. And definitely take the advice of producers who are working successfully in today’s market. Try to find a sound that will communicate to youth without overly compromising who you are as an artist.
- Society’s youth expect that 40-somethings have got a few things worked out. So tone down any emotion-laden songs that make it sound like you’re messed up over your latest break-up. At the same time, don’t be preachy.
The hit song singer-songwriters from any era are almost always young. So don’t expect to turn heads if you’re 50-years-old and trying to break into some market. You need to be reasonable about your expectations.
At the same time, there is hope. You can break into a younger market if your songs are well-constructed, if your sound isn’t overly dated, and if you focus on your own demographic, and build out from there.
A well-constructed song if always the first step to breaking into any market. Download “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 6 ebook bundle, and make sure the structure of your songs is working for you.