Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting

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#1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Charts of 2016

Every year I look at what's just happened at #1 on the Billboard Charts to get a snapshot of what's trending....fascinating as always!

Let's look at intros first...how many were looking at radio. The interesting thing is that 8 of the 9 have a average of 10 seconds...that is by adding all the intros together and dividing...only one, Taylor Swift, "Bad Blood" had a "zero start"(no intro), and that was only 85 BPMs so it was kind of aimed at radio..her other #1, "Blank Space" was close BPM wise at 86 BPM.

#1 ON THE HOT COUNTRY BILLBOARD CHARTS 2015

Ralph Murphy
....I reiterate, that every year I look at the #1s on the previous years Billboard Charts so I can get a sense of "listener expectations" for the New Year. I do this as a business person, not a songwriter, because I'm in the "Music Business"....for better or worse!

There were 11 #1s on the Billboard Hot Country Charts in 2015
All of them had intros which means they were probably designed to accommodate the radio format...14.4 seconds

BILLBOARD #1 COUNTRY AIRPLAY SONGS

....again, every year I critically eye what goes on at #1 on the Billboard Charts, to see what the consumer expects at #1..every year is different, but kinda the same...check out what I mean.
There are some very interesting things that will strike you when you take a look at the the comparison between the Country Airplay #1s and the Hot Country #1s.
Firstly, is the sheer number of Airplay #1s compared to the Hot Country #1s....38 Airplay #1s compared to 11 Hot Country #1s.....over three times as many....

Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting 2010

Was 2010 the end of a volatile time in country music, or the calm before the storm? Well no matter what your personal perception was, 2010 was an interesting year at #1 for songwriters. In 2010, 71 songwriters contributed to twenty-nine #1 records. Because a few of those songwriters wrote on more than one #1, the total # of writers that actually had a #1 or more in 2010 was 53.

According to Phyllis Stark (Stark Country) there were 205 singles released in 2010 so about 15% went “all the way”.

’09 The Year of More….And Less!

I get a lot of heat for studying only #1 records.  Strangely enough, not from the writers, publishers or artists that have one.  My feeling is that if the “business” feels it is worth promoting, pushing, bullying or outright buying a record to the top, they must be pretty confident in the “foundation” that the artist’s career is built on…..the song.  So, no matter how they got to the dance, here are the songs that went to the #1 ball.  In line with “no one throws a # 2 party” this is a look at what made it to No. 1 in 2009.

Your Best Bet for a #1 Song

For a small business owner such as a songwriter/publisher, knowing the market is vital. Budgeting for success means looking at income (when it decides to come in!) and making informed decisions about how to spend it most effectively. Up near the top of the list of expenditures (almost right next to eating) are demo costs. The financial outlay for demonstration recordings has risen to $750 - $1,000 per song. So, if you write 30 songs a year and only have $10,000 in your demo budget, you're going to have to make some hard choices.

More Songwriting Tips

After the obvious "Don't give up your regular job," there are more tips on songwriting than a golfer has excuses. A few that come to mind are:

1. Make sure you've told the whole story.

A song should have a beginning, a middle and an end. For an example -- you did that, I did this, and now we're doing that and (INSERT YOUR HOOK HERE.)

Drawing Maximum Attention to Your Hook

As you go through your song's story and the verses, check your rhyme scheme. Whatever it is -- change it in your chorus. For instance, change an A B A B rhyme scheme to A B C B .

The reason you do this is to subtly alert listeners that something important is coming. A change in rhyme scheme combined with the change in melody going into the chorus should have them ready for the hook.

A couple of effective ways to get the most out of your hook (90 percent of the time, your title is the final line or hook) are to:

The Realities of Co-Writing

Figure out where you're going

You are going to co-write with someone you have never worked with before, so do your homework.

Ask them to give you a CD or link to two or three of their songs that they are excited about. This applies even to a hit writer, because past hits may not necessarily reflect his or her current attitude toward writing.

If the co-writer is an artist, get a copy of his or her latest recorded work. Ask them if they loved or hated it, because either way, you will have a sense of direction when you sit down to write with them.

Your Demos: Dress Them for Success

Every time a writer (or writers) finishes a song, the inevitable question comes up: How should this piece of work be demoed? Let's start by defining what we are taking about. Demo is short for "demonstration," which Webster's Dictionary tells us means "an explanation by example, a practical showing of how something works or is used."

So, step back from your song and take a long, hard look at it. What are its strong points, and what is the simplest, most eloquent way to show it off, i.e. to demo it?

The Checklist

In the last Murphy's Law, I discussed assembling your demo for presentation; however, before you dress up your song and walk it out in public, take a long, hard look to make sure you've given it the full benefit of your craft. Here is a limited checklist:

 

Check your Checklist:

  • Have you kept your pronouns consistent? If it's "she" in the verse, it should not be "you" in the chorus (unless you left "she" for "you").

Making the Most of Your Songwriting Seminar

The next time you attend a songwriting seminar, take advantage of some of the tips I've discovered -- and a few pet peeves I've encountered -- along the way:

1. Arrive fully prepared.

Be ready to take notes. Buy a small, lined, book that does not have removable pages. Also bring two pens or two pencils or both. (The other Murphy's Law will prevail and at least one of the two won't work.)

2. Be sociable.

Co-Writing with Established Songwriters

I was having lunch recently with a new writer just signed to his first major publishing deal. He told me that his publisher had been setting up co-writing appointments for him with established writers, and that he had some questions on how to approach writing on such a different level. I thought addressing his two biggest questions here might be useful to writers in similar situations.

The Mighty Pronoun - The Little Big Word

Many times, in trying to get the listener's attention, writers will fixate on song-crafting devices such as story, story development, metaphor, alliteration and imagery, while forgetting to pay attention to the little personal pronouns. HE, SHE, IT, THEY, THEM, US, WE, I, YOU, and ME may not look like much, but they define who does what to whom. They also can affect the writer's marketablity and, therefore the value of his or her work.

Know Your Own Strengths

One of the top ten questions I get asked by newcomers to the industry is, "How do I get heard in the music business?" Before I can answer that, I have to know exactly what they want to be "heard." When I ask them about their goals -- whether they want to be songwriters or recording artists -- the most common response is, "Both."

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