The recipe for a hit song consist of two main ingredients, art and psychology. When art and psychology work in perfect harmony, the chances for the perfect storm increase. One without the other makes finding a hit next to impossible.
I regularly hear new music from artists, songwriters and producers who aspire to create hits. Most of the creators are quite familiar with the songs that reach the top of the charts. What puzzles me is the key ingredient so many miss about those songs. When writing/recording a song, they nail the art with an incredible hook but totally miss the psychology when placing the hook in the song. Lost in the art, many artists and producers take too long to get to the hook. Unfortunately, the listener wants the payoff immediately and therefore so do the gate keepers of radio.
I offer a little obvious free advice. To Score a Hit, Hook’em Quick!
Mary Did You Know that Christmas is Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene’s favorite time of the year? December is a BIG royalty check generating month for the two songwriter’s of “Mary, Did You Know” as the song continues to build in worldwide popularity. This year Pentatonix is singing the song to the top of the charts. Over the years, the song has been recorded by Wynonna Judd & Kenny Rogers, Rascal Flats, Cee Lo Green, Scotty McCreery, Mary J Blige, India Arie, Reba McEntire, Clay Aiken, Jeremy Camp, Kutless and The Braxtons just to name a few.
This week I ran across a Youtube performance that puts a totally new spin on “Mary, Did You Know.” Below is a video with Ryan Corn giving the song a hipster busking vibe. Merry Christmas!
Have you ever heard a Christmas song begin with the story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden? Well, You’re about to! While many artists are busy releasing cover Christmas songs, The Gray Havens decided to take a new and fresh approach at writing and recording their new original Christmas song, At Last, The King. The new song, produced by Ryan Corn, is now available on iTunes. This song serves as a preview of what’s to come as The Gray Havens are busy working on their new Spring 2016 release. Below is a video of a live performance from The Gray Havens singing At Last, The King.
Fourteen years ago, during Universal Music’s presentation at the NARM convention, Taylor Swift was introduced to the music industry. One could hear a slight bit of nervousness in her voice as she sang a few of her songs for the room full of critics. Little did we know how that little girl would change the music industry.
Last night, as I read the news that Apple Music had changed their decision to pay artists for streams during the 3 month launch, my heart was filled with gratitude for that little girl turned woman, Taylor Swift. Her letter to Apple single handed impacted every artist, songwriter, producer and record label in a positive way. Taylor exemplifies the artist no one thought possible in our modern age of entertainers. She has responded with grace in every situation the music industry has thrown her and showed the world how to lead. Taylor has endured incredibly tough situations throughout her career including jealous artists and music industry folks slamming her ability to sing, Kanye West sabotaging her MTV Video Music Award moment and of course all those boyfriends that treated her poorly. In every situation, she has responded with incredible wisdom and leadership.
Taylor – Thank you for being an example to the world, thank you for showing us how to lead and thank you for using your platform for something more than just yourself.
Great news for musicians, artists and worship leaders as the Christian Musician Summit is coming to Nashville October 5 & 6! The CMS Summit that has been so successful in Seattle, Sacramento, Phoenix and Buffalo now makes its first ever appearance in Music City USA. The Nashville Summit promises to be extra special as it will incorporate some of the greatest musicians from both Christian & Country music. Seminars on songwriting, instrument techniques, worship leading and special concerts from some of the greats are what one can expect. Just some of the artists/musicians/songwriters who will be appearing include Phil Keaggy, NewWorldSon, One Sonic Society, Brenton Brown, Steve Taylor, Zoro, Casey Beathard, Allen Shamblin, Ed Hill, Tim Rushlow, Ashley Cleveland, Ian Eskelin, Rick Cua and our very own StompTown Revival! Its also a great opportunity to rub elbows with some of the top execs in the Record Label & Publishing industry. Visit this link to find out more and register http://www.christianmusiciansummit.com
Artist Development is a process that was originally created by record labels to groom young artists for the big leagues. Many young artists have raw talent that needs refinement and that process takes time. Unfortunately, the new music business economy left record labels with a lack of resources to fund artist development. Record labels now want “fully baked” artists who are ready to release music immediately. So who fills the role of artist development?
Artist Management companies are the new “Artist Development Departments”. As an artist manager, I find myself in the process daily. While it requires patience, it can be quite rewarding when you find an artist willing to listen, learn and work hard.
5 Key Steps To Artist Development
– Songwriting – The most important element of artist development! Without great songs, everything else is meaningless. The first thing we do with new artists is set up co-writes with great writers in an effort to grow them into great songwriters.
– Vocal Coaching – Some artists may only need to learn how to protect & take care of their voice but most artists will take huge performance leaps with the right vocal coach.
– Performance Coaching – While we do a great deal of this ourselves, we also bring in performance coach professionals as needed. Fortunately, we have an artist roster to pull from who offer some of the best coaching.
– Live Producer – This involves bringing in a producer to help with instrumentation & arrangement of songs. What the audience hears out front can differ greatly from what the artist hears on stage or in a rehearsal room.
– Image Consulting – Many new artists think they have a great look. “Think” is the key word in that phrase. Artists need a look that is memorable & sets them apart. Fortunately, my wife & business partner, Diana Stancil, has a great eye and talent for this. The tough part in image consulting is convincing the artists to stick with the new look and resist falling back into old comfortable habits.
We’ve all heard it said “It starts with a song” or “It’s all about the song” While those may sound cliche, they ring truer than ever. Sure an occasional pop star rises to the top of the charts using shock or controversy as opposed to great music but most successful music in all genres is centered around a great song.
We get loads of submissions each week from people looking for an artist manager but probably one submission a year that includes a great song. I encourage anyone pursuing a career as an artist to make the song your primary focus. Study the greats of your genre and pick their songs apart. Learn what makes great songs tic. Find writers who are writing great songs to co-write with. Join a songwriter’s organization to meet others. Nashville is loaded with incredible songwriters of all genres. Move there to learn the craft from the greats. If you aren’t a writer then find a great writer to write for you.
Your friends and family will always tell you how great your songs are. Find youself a Simon Cowell. Someone with success in the music business who will really critique your songs. Then listen, learn and grow.