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Writing For the Market, Or Writing For You

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Gary Ewer

Written by Gary Ewer

No one can blame a songwriter for wanting to write and perform songs that grab the attention of the big players in the music industry. It’s the dream of most. The tricky part is finding out what the industry wants.

It can seem that getting attention from the market means being able to predict the future. In popular songwriting, what people want to hear seems to change almost weekly. How is a person supposed to know what or how they should be writing?

Here are some things we’re talking about:

1. Honesty in Songwriting.

Honesty is term you often hear when it comes especially to the writing of lyrics, but applies equally well to aspects such as style. “Honesty”, “integrity”, “sincerity”… these are all words that refer to your ability to write songs that truly express 1) who you are, 2) what you think, and 3) how you feel.

The problem with writing for the market is that your honesty — who you really are — can take a hit. If trying to hit the market just right takes you out of your comfort zone, and you wind up writing lyrics that don’t reflect the real you, or writing/producing in a style that doesn’t match your real take on music, it’s going to show.

2. Predicting the Future.

Targeting the market can mean trying predicting the future, because of the quickly-changing nature of the music industry. All it takes is one album by a suddenly-emerging megastar, and suddenly music is moving in a new direction. How do you keep up?

The easiest way to stay current (which, by the way, may not be enough) is to keep listening to music in your chosen genre. That will show you what the genre’s biggest stars have been up to in the past few months, and it’s better than not knowing anything.

3. Rewriting the Same Songs.

If you tend to use the same chords, write in the same key, write about the same things, and then perform those songs at the same tempo, mainly because that’s what you think the market is looking for, you’ve got problems that exist before you even try to get the attention of the industry.

Look for ways to change things up, and do that with every song you write. And just a note about that: changing things up doesn’t mean exploring ways to write that don’t feel like you. It simply means expanding the palette, to use a painter’s metaphor.

So try to find:

  1. new chords and chord relationships that you like;
  2. new ways of saying things;
  3. new topics to sing about; and
  4. new ways of writing hooks and melodic/rhythmic ideas.

Writing For Yourself

When you read the stories of pop music’s biggest acts, you’ll notice a similar thread: most careers start out by singer-songwriters and bands happily doing whatever it takes to make it in the business. Then once a certain level of success is achieved, it becomes a struggle between the artist and the record company: the producers all wanting a certain kind of song, and the artist saying, “But that’s not really who we are!”

So if those who are already successful are struggling to balance what they want to do with what the industry is demanding, what are you supposed to do? How do you make it in the professional world if you aren’t writing specifically for the market?

Consistent Excellence

The best approach for any songwriter is: to be consistently excellent at what you do. Realize that not everyone will love or even like your songs, but the industry will ultimately reward songwriters whose songs are structurally sound, have a catchy, hooky appeal, and address universal themes to which most listeners can relate.

Consistent excellence may seem like a vague term, but the main symptom that you’re achieving it is that your fan base is steadily growing. If for you good songwriting seems to be hit-or-miss, think less about the market (for now), and polish your songwriting technique.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook Bundle packages“The Essential Secrets of Songwriting” eBook bundle comes with a free copy of “Creative Chord Progressions”. Learn how to take your chords beyond simple I-IV-V progressions. With pages of examples ready for you to use in your own songs!

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  1. Pingback: Writing For the Market, Or Writing For You - The Hit Songwriting Formula | The Hit Songwriting Formula

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