Are your songs innovative and fresh enough to grab attention? How you respond to these 5 questions will determine that answer.
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Success in music is like walking a tightrope. It’s a precarious wobble between sounding innovative, but also sounding enough like everyone else that you build a fan base rather than scare new listeners away. And it’s not easy. The Beatles did it by writing and performing tunes that were more predictable than innovative at first (“She Loves You”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, etc.) Once they had built a huge following, it was then possible for them to pull that considerable following along to a new and innovative world: “I Am the Walrus”, “A Day In the Life”, etc.) But for The Beatles, even their early music had elements that seemed fresh, exciting and forward-looking. Every song had something to thrill the listener, even if it was just the “Yeah, yeah yeah!” of “She Loves You.” And that’s the point. If you want to set yourself apart from everyone else’s music, you’ve got to give the audience something – anything – that makes your music even just that little bit different. The innovation that I’m talking about may actually go beyond being a songwriting issue, and be more one of musical arranging and production. Being different from everyone else doesn’t guarantee you an audience that’s willing to come along with you. Uniqueness for uniqueness’s sake can actually speed up the demise of a promising musical career. But uniqueness that serves the music, that enhances the structure of your songs — that’s something worth exploring. If you’ve been building your own catalogue of songs over the past few years, and you’ve got some or most of it recorded, take some time to listen to those recordings, one after the other, and after each song ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s this song’s most exciting moment?
- What is innovative in this song? (What sets it apart from everyone else’s music in this genre?)
- What happens in the first 15 seconds that makes someone want to keep listening?
- Why would someone want to listen again to this song?
- Does each song in my catalogue offer my audience a unique and exciting musical experience?
The best singer-songwriters or groups in the music business — the ones that have stood the test of time and have built a huge following for themselves — are the ones that provide a unique and diverse musical experience for their listenership with every new tune they release. In that sense, providing a unique experience for your listeners with each song becomes a hallmark of what you do. Your listeners learn to “expect the unexpected,” and at least in the music business, that’s an exciting life for both you and your audience.
Written by Gary Ewer. Follow on Twitter. “The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” 10-eBook Bundle looks at songwriting from every angle, and has been used by thousands of songwriters. How to use chords, write melodies, and craft winning lyrics. (And you’ll receive a FREE copy of “Creative Chord Progressions”)