Creating a Unique Songwriting Formula

Can unique songs, built on a unique songwriting formula, build an audience base?

The WhoIf hit song writing is your area of interest, you need to come to terms with the fact that the songs you write will usually be highly predictable, with only enough innovation to distinguish it from the other songs out there .

There are performing groups out there whose music has been much more inventive, much more innovative, who eventually made it big without having to adhere to the standard hit song formula. Even if their music never became the kind that topped the hit parade, everyone knows that they’re good.


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So yes, it’s possible to make it big in this business without following the basic hit song formula of balancing your songs strongly toward the predictable, and getting to the chorus sooner rather than later. Yes, you can decide not to use the standard verse-chorus-bridge format. And in so doing you’ll be on your way to creating some fantastic music that (assuming it’s well-written) will gradually pull in a large listenership.

The advantage of what amounts to creating your own formula is that you’ll be writing music that has a high degree of individuality, a healthy dose of personality, which sometimes can become huge hits because of it. Your music will sound distinctively like you, and no one else. Those who make that work will be successful over a longer period of time, even if the climb to the top is more gradual. In 30 years, album radio will still likely want to play your songs, because everyone will recognize the quality of your writing. That kind of quality equates to staying power, and groups like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Yes, The Who, Moody Blues, and many others.

The disadvantage of this more creative style of songwriting is that it takes longer to build an audience base. If the wait doesn’t bother you, you’ll be building a more loyal audience that stays with you over time. You may never quite hook the kind of demographic that wants immediate musical pleasure. There are listeners out there who only listen to hit song radio, who never want to challenge themselves to dig deeper or expand their musical horizons. But that’s OK. In the end, you need to do what satisfies you.

Just to clarify one more point: when I write in my blog about how to compose hit songs, don’t necessarily take that to mean that I advocate it over doing something more musically creative. Hit songs are what they are: often somewhat shallow, where the sense of innovation is rather scant.

But trying to write a song that has a broad appeal can, in and of itself, become an interesting musical challenge. The test becomes: how to write a song that appeals to a large number of listeners while still providing something musical to sink one’s teeth into.

And the best example of the groups that successfully danced on that tightrope are, in my opinion, led by the Beatles, who were able to be extraordinarily innovative, and pull almost the entire world along with them.


Written by Gary Ewer, from “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” website.
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