In today's very crowded music marketplace, you are
competing at any given time with tens of thousands of artists and hundreds of
thousands of songs and you're competing for two specific things: Awareness, and Attention. Awareness is getting a listener
to notice that you (or your song) exist, and Attention is sparking enough
interest in that listener so that they willingly hold you in their awareness
(and ideally, make others aware of you as well).
You cannot achieve Attention without first
achieving Awareness. Thus, many artists spend considerable time and resource in
"marketing and promotion", learning what they can and applying a
variety of approaches to capture listener Awareness. However, they often overlook one fundamental piece of
the whole picture once you've achieved Awareness, what does it take to turn
it into Attention?
The answer is simple and basic quality. Great songs. The songs are like cars to GM,
computers to Apple, food to McDonald's, or flavor to Coke. These companies have great brand
awareness, but at times have faltered when there was a perception that their
quality was compromised or did not measure up to competitors. The ultimate
success of a company (i.e. you), is bring a quality
product into a wide awareness.
I meet many young artists who want me to tell them
all I know about marketing, but who never ask for analysis or critique of their
songs. They've spend large
amounts of time and money recording songs that have never been critiqued by
objective professionals, or developing graphics that have never gone before a
test audience, and then they wonder why all their best efforts at marketing and
promoting yield little results OR they get some degree of results from
their marketing efforts and never think to ask how much MORE they would have
gotten if they had a better product.
Songcrafters' Coloring Book discussion of ullage)
There was an amazing online poll conducted by
Derek Sivers in early 2009. He
asked how folks get input on their songs
during the development stage.
A huge number of aspiring Independent Artists wrote (sometimes
emphatically!) that they never
seek out nor ever need
critique. Could you imagine any company today investing all the time and money
it takes to launch a new product or service without including focus groups and
market testing as part of the product development? We all remember - or not - the Ford Edsel , "New
Coke", and McDonald's pizza.
If your competition is not spending time and
effort maximizing the quality of their songs, it is good news for you it means that if you take the time
to work on the crafting of your songs, then your subsequent efforts at
promotion and marketing will be that much more effective.
A typical response to avoiding critique is that
"I want to be different! My
music doesnt fit any type of category" . Let's take a
moment to look at when 'different' works for or against you.
At my workshops, I usually ask 100 people in a room what song they
think about when I say the word "love", and I usually get 100
different answers. Then I ask what
song they think of when I say "centrifugal" and there are only two
kinds of responses either nothing,
or "This Kiss", as recorded by Faith Hill, written by Beth Nielsen Chapman, Robin Lerner and Annie Roboff
(yes, it sometimes takes a village to raise a great song).
There is no question that this song "works",
across different styles, tastes, demographics, and cultures. Besides being a #1 international
Country hit and a Top-10 crossover
hit on multiple-genre charts on three continents, "This Kiss" became the signature song for the 1998
Magic. It won the Video Of The Year awards at the
1998 Country Music
Association awards. This was the first time in her career that Faith Hill had international success with a
hit success due to the song,
not the artist. (She had had four
previous #1 hits, but nothing of this magnitude).
Why does this song "work" so well, as opposed to the vast
number of other songs that are also about love and kisses? Clearly it's not
just what the song is "about".
There is more at work.
Song lyrics have three main sets of components: Semantic (having to do with meaning),
Phonetic (having to do with the sound of the words), and Prosodic (having to do
with the rhythm of the words). (These are all discussed at great
length in "Songcrafters'
When you look at the chorus of "This Kiss" :
(Chapman, Lerner , Roboff © Almo Music, HFA T14952 )
It's the way you love me
It's a feeling like this
It's centrifugal motion
It's perpetual bliss
It's that pivotal moment
It's, ah, impossible
This kiss, this kiss, unstoppable
This kiss, this kiss
you can see it's not what is being said that is so memorable -- a million songs say the same thing. It's not any unique use of metaphor or
any memorable story. It is the sound of the words, their cadence, and the unusual choice of words. The incredible international success
of this song is shaped primarily by five words: centrifugal, perpetual, (that)pivotal, impossible,
unstoppable". These five words show tremendous
interaction between semantic, phonetic, and prosodic elements. The sonic activity (use of phonetics)
here is extremely high: a
five-fold alliteration on "p"; all the words end in the
"ul' sound; assonant syllables
in "cen" "per" and "pet"; a sonic reversal in
"pos/"stop"; and a
rhyme in "tual"/"fugal".
Prosodically, all the words
have the exact same cadence (accent pattern) of 4 syllables with the accent on the second: soft-LOUD-soft-soft, and the same rhythmic timing ( The five lines of this rhythmic pattern
set up a real perception of motion --
and then -- the spondee
pattern of the words "this kiss" (LOUD LOUD) moved to musical
off-beats totally changes the sense of motion and makes the title really stand
out, far more so than if the words just continued the fast-moving pace of the
It is quality craftsmanship on all levels.
Finally, the semantic choice of the particularly unusual word (for a
song) "centrifugal" put the icing on this lyric, using the Von
Restorff Effect to uniquely brand the song. The Von Restorff Effect is the cognitive principle that
makes things stand out and be more easily remembered by being different . This same principle is at work with the
music in songs as well. Ask
100 people what well known band they think of when you say "guitar",
and you'll get 100 answers. Same
for "keyboard". But ask what band they think of when you say
"French Horn" and you'll
get one The Who. Ask about
"flute" and you'll get Jethro Tull, and perhaps some Moody
Blues. Ask about
"cello" and it's the Harry Chapin Band. The Von Restorff Effect is clearly at work musically as well
as lyrically. ( Further
discussion of the Von Restorff Effect
is at my blog )
The bottom line of all of this is simple: it's not enough to just be different,
nor to be technically proficient.
You have to have a well-crafted,
above-average song in order for uniqueness and technical artistry to
have optimum effect. And if you're
going to be "different" it has to be in a way that is in a space of
its own, without other competing songs or artists or styles. You can only determine this with some
market testing. Dont just assume
it good because your best friend, your mother-in-law, and your pet like
it. Always strive for maximum
Awareness, but be sure you have a well crafted, quality song to hold Attention.
Bill Pere was named one of the "Top 50 Innovators,
Groundbreakers and Guiding Lights of the Music Industry" by Music Connection Magazine and is the
author of the internationally
acclaimed book "Songcrafters'
Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting". With more than 30 years in the music
business as a recording artist, award winning songwriter, performer, and
educator Bill is well known for his superbly crafted lyrics, with lasting impact. Bill has released 16 CD's , and
is President of the Connecticut Songwriters
Association. Bill is an
Official Connecticut State Troubadour, and is the Founder and Executive
Director of the LUNCH Ensemble
. Twice named Connecticut
Songwriter of the Year, Bill is a qualified MBTI practitioner, a member of CMEA and MENC, and as Director of the Connecticut Songwriting Academy he
helps develop young talent in songwriting, performing, and learning about the music business. Bill's song analysis and
critiques are considered among the best in the industry.
© Copyright 2011 Bill Pere. All Rights Reserved.
This article may not be reproduced in any way with out permission of the
author, except for academic use, with proper attribution.
For workshops, consultation, performances, or other songwriter services, contact Bill via his web sites, at http://www.billpere.com, http://www.ctsongwriting.com, and http://www.lunchensemble.com