Write a great song

By Cari Cole

So you may have heard it said (or not), but the truth about your success in music is only one song away.  All you really need is one song to make your mark.

And sadly, it’s so easy to get lost in the chatter out there and think that marketing and branding are the keys to success when it’s really all about the song.

This reminds me of when I was sitting in the office of a Sr. VP at BMG Music in LA and we were showing him music from our publishing catalog. Artists that we’d been honing and grooming, and well, pushing, to write music that matters. Music they love. Music they want to hear. Because to us at CCVM, great albums, great careers all start and end with that one song. And we foster that in our artists.

So, usually, we sift through an artist’s catalog comparing songs against each other to see which ones stand out the most. But on this day, we were showing the top 2-3 songs of our top handful of artists. And as we listened from artist to artist, we were once again reminded of one blaring thing. How important it is to listen to a group of artists together, to not only hear what songs stand out but to hear what artists stand out over the others. And in that way, it is immediately obvious who is ahead in their writing. Again, it all comes down to the song. Even trendy production or great voices won’t trump a great song. In our opinion, tipping the scales and breaking through as a recording/performing artist, is not just being an artist, it’s about writing great songs ~ songs that make an impact. And all you need is one to break through and you’re all set.

What song have you been dying to write that nails where you are? What has your struggle has been? What are you trying to overcome?

Here’s My Tips to Writing The Song.

1. Don’t be afraid to write crappy songs.

Every song you write leads you to the next. The crappy songs serve an important purpose. They make the way for the good ones. The goods ones pave the way for the great ones..and so on. Each song is important to get to the next. Don’t be discouraged, just work harder.

2. Write a large volume of songs.

The only real way to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be is to write a large volume of songs. Because through that process of writing, writing, writing, you will find your own voice. You will find what you are good at and where you suck. You’ll work harder to write better. It’s a natural progression.

3. Schedule lots of co-writes.

One of the best and quickest ways to write a large volume of songs is not to lock yourself away forever, but to find other writers to write with. It has long been known that if you want to get good at anything you have to put in your 10,000 hours. Imagine what your writing would be like after 10,000 hours of songwriting? On a pro level it takes about 6 hours to write a song from start to finish. If you divide 10,000 hours by 6, that would be 1666.66 songs. Yep, you’d be a pretty good writer by then ;). Many songwriters set out for that aim. Ryan Tedder (One Republic), although primarily a pop/rock writer, went to Nashville to write for 10 years to become a great writer. And he did. Truly. One of the steps in our 3 Step System that we use to develop artists is Step 2: A & R. In that step we have a program called Your Exceptional Record and a circle called the Signature Songwriting Circle. In the circle, participants co-write 24 songs in 26 weeks. Yep, one song a week with a different writer each time. Check.

4. Write Every Day.

The way to approach it is not to set out to write that “one song”, but set out to WRITE. Keep your eye on the prize, but dig into the experience of writing ~ every day. That one song you are looking for will most likely come after 100 songs written ~ or maybe after 250? Sometimes before. You never know. But it does take a lot of writing before you get in the saddle. Don’t be afraid of that, enjoy the journey!!

5. Write Real Songs.

Real songs that are written from real stories and emotions pack more punch than made up songs. They resonate with people because they have a “truth” behind them that creates a common experience with your listeners. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” was a song that resonated with the world. It was a common experience that no one had said in that way before and we all went “oh yeah, I know THAT feeling.” Try using real-life experiences and use your own vulnerability to find those common human experiences we all go through and put them in your songs.

When you get in the game as a songwriter, you realize there is one common destination that everyone is aiming for. That one song that will have enough energy to make an impact and breakthrough. That one song that everyone unanimously relates to. And you will know when you’ve arrived because so does everyone else. They can’t stop humming your tune and all of a sudden you hear it everywhere. Until that day, you keep writing and don’t look back.


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