The 7:00 Am Rule

If you're ready to stop being "warm and fuzzy," go for the throat and write a hit -- read on, you're ready for "The 7:00 a.m. Rule." Everybody already thinks you're crazy anyway, so you might as well be successful and crazy. It will make your mother and your bank manager happy.

The Road Test

Contrary to popular opinion, songs are not really "sold" in an A&R person's office at 11:00 a.m., a publisher's office at 2:00 p.m., a manager's office at 4:00 p.m., or a coffeehouse, bar, concert or nightclub at 10:00 p.m. After all the work of the creative process - the politics of pitching, the hell of being on hold, the anguish of the recording process, the torment of waiting to be the single - comes the acid test. It's called "Drive Time."

Drive time occurs between 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on radio stations around the world. It can take the song that your publisher said was a smash, the A&R people said couldn't miss, the artist hailed as a career maker, and your significant other wept over, and make it just another stain on the great toilet roll of life.

Be The "Fish"

In order to understand what will happen to your work when it is fed to the listener, it's essential to think like the listener. When you go fishing, think like the fish. A fish does not bite on a hook because it thinks it is a stainless steel hook; the fish has got to believe it has found lunch. If the bait, for any reason, does not behave like lunch, the fish goes looking elsewhere, and so does the listener.

Think about what you want to do at 7:00 a.m. The real answer: nothing. Your car isn't running right, your kids are driving you crazy, your boss is on your back, you burned your hand on the toaster, and all the while, under a half-dead plant, a collection of transistors and plastic called a radio is relentlessly trying to capture your attention.

Target The Listener

Remember, songwriters, the listener doesn't care about you: they care about themselves as you see them. The reason you fell in love with songs before you became caught up in the mechanics of writing was because you identified with the song. You didn't care if the writer was having a good day or a bad day.

Also, the listener is used to receiving information in a certainform. There are definite song structures. The ways that a story isdelivered have been in place longer than any of us have been alive: starting with a killer opening line; having a beginning, middle and end; changing rhyme schemes from verse to chorus; choosing the right pronouns; placing the right metaphor. These and other basic elements of craft are the essential tools of the "hit" writer.

Remember, you are born with the gift of perception, but craft is an acquired skill. At 7:00 a.m., the listener is taking no prisoners. You're going to need all the craft that every other hit writer is bringing to bear.

Write a hit!