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5 Tips To Turn Good Songs Into Hit Songs by Jason Blume

September 25, 2014
Recently we received an email from BMI and in this post we feel it would be helpful to share this information with you.




5 Tips To Turn Good Songs Into Hit Songs by Jason Blume

I recently hosted one of my monthly BMI Nashville Songwriter Workshops, where each of the 50 attendees had an opportunity to pitch one song to a successful publisher. Typically, at these workshops, with few exceptions, every song played was perfectly crafted. The writers have mastered the use of current song structures; the lyrics made sense and were well written; rhymes were where my ear expected them to be; and the melodies worked well with the chords—avoiding any dissonance. Yet the publisher took copies of only five songs—10 percent of those that were pitched.

It was a good reminder that “perfectly crafted” is a starting point, but it isn’t enough. In order to rise above the competition, our songs need to go beyond the expected, pushing the creative envelope and differentiating themselves from the hundreds—if not thousands—of other well-written songs that are all vying for a coveted slot on a major label artist’s recording.

A publisher once told me that when he plays songs at meetings with record label executives, he needs his songs to “slap them out of their A&R trance.” The same holds true when pitching songs to record producers and recording artists. The publisher went on to explain that these industry pros are bombarded with songs—mostly written by published songwriters with track records—so all of the songs under consideration are good, but only those songs with that extra something jump out of the pile and demand attention.

Similarly, writers who play their songs for publishers, in the hope of securing a publishing deal, need to take into account that the publisher probably already has an extensive catalog of songs, and possibly staff writers, for which he or she is responsible. There should be compelling reasons for a publisher to choose your song over the competition—elements that instantly announce that your song is unique and exceptional and that it is destined to become a smash hit that will elevate an artist’s career to the next level.

Imagine that every song needs to score a minimum of 100 points to become a hit. Some of those points will typically be earned by the lyric, some will be awarded because of the melody, while others might come from the musical backing track.

So… what elements can you add to your songs to provide those extra points that compel artists, publishers and record label executives to choose your songs over the competition and carry them to the top of the charts? The more components we include, the more points we rack up and the better chance for success. Let’s look at some ways to separate songs from the pack—and transform them from good to wow!


Include Unique Melodic Elements and Unexpected Melodic Intervals
A memorable melody is essential—but only those melodies that feel fresh and original will rise above the competition. There are several ways to ensure your melodies grab attention. The tools described below can take a song to the next level.

Listen to the intervals used in Kris Kristofferson’s classic, “Help Me Make it Through the Night.” The note choices in the first line are anything but predictable. Similarly, listen to Neil’s Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done,” and note the unexpected note and chord choices. A more contemporary example is Pink’s hit “Try” (written by Busbee and Ben West), which incorporates unexpected melodic intervals that allow the artist to soar vocally, matching the intense emotion of the lyric.

Stock melodies won’t contribute to a listener choosing your song over the competition.

Add Instrumental Hooks
By adding instrumental hooks—catchy instrumental melodic phrases—you give your listeners another reason to latch on to and connect with your song. For example, the distinctive tenor saxophone line sampled from Balkan Beat Box’s “Hermetico” provides some of the most memorable moments in Jason Derulo’s smash hit “Talk Dirty.”

It accomplishes this both by incorporating an instantly recognizable lick—and introducing a sound that’s fresh, attention grabbing, and not typically heard in hip-hop. The baritone sax part heard in the verses contributes yet another special element. Similarly, the catchy tenor sax line woven through Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” was one of the most distinctive elements of that number one hit.

I’m not implying that using saxophones is the magic bullet. Hit songs have included instrumental melodic hooks that were played on keyboards, banjos, electric and acoustic guitars, accordions, fiddle, bass guitar, harmonica and countless other instruments. It’s interesting to note that in Phillip Phillips’ “Home,” the added melodic hook that helped propel this song to the top of the charts was performed by a combination of instruments and vocals—without lyrics.

Including unique, memorable instrumental motifs, and instruments and/or sounds that go beyond the expected can take your songs to the next level.

Incorporate Fresh Rhythms
There has been a recent trend of infusing hip-hop rhythms into contemporary country songs. This can be found in hits such as Blake Shelton’s “Boys Round Here” (featuring Pistol Annies), Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” and Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kinda Night.”

Regardless of musical genre, one of the most effective ways to separate your songs from the pack is to craft melodies that give the vocalists interesting rhythms to sing. This is often accomplished by incorporating syncopation.

There are countless examples of hits that use this technique. Some exceptional ones to study include Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart,” Eli Young Band’s “Drunk Last Night” and Lorde’s “Royals.”

Melodies that go beyond stock, predictable rhythms differentiate themselves from the competition.

A Fresh Lyric Concept and Title
It’s obvious that building your song on the foundation of a strong lyric concept—an idea that millions of listeners can relate to—is important. But to elevate your song from good to exceptional, explore a new angle in your lyric, a fresh approach or a novel way to express your concept. This can be done in both the title and the individual lines of lyric.

Notice how intriguing the titles and corresponding concepts are in classic songs such as “Billy Jean,” “Hotel California,” “Georgia On My Mind,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “Take This Job and Shove It” and “Proud Mary.” There are also countless examples of contemporary hits that have unique titles and lyric angles, such as “Roar,” “I Hope You Dance,” “(What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You) Stronger,” “From a Distance,” “Alien,” “I Kissed a Girl,” “The House That Built Me” and “I Drive Your Truck.”

At the time I wrote this article, seven of the top 10 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart had one-word titles, demonstrating their popularity. Hits with one-word titles have included: “Problem,” “Rude,” “Fancy,” “Cruise,” “Crazy,” “Wanted,” Stay” and “Domino.”

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ GRAMMY-nominated hit “Same Love” blazed new territory with a lyric that tackled the topic of same-sex love and marriage. It’s interesting to note that the chorus of that song is sung from the first-person perspective. By avoiding “preaching” to the listeners, and not telling them what they should think or feel, the song evoked emotion by allowing its audience to empathize with the singer.

If you were a recording artist seeking material, would you choose a title and concept as interesting as one of those listed above—or a more mundane idea such as “Oh, Baby I Love You,” “You’re the One I Need,” “I Miss You”? A great title and an equally strong concept can be the ticket to take your song to the top of the charts.

Incorporating Nonsense Syllables/Non-Lyric Vocal Hooks
A publisher at one of my workshops told the attendees, “When you add a ‘na-na-na,’ an ‘oh, oh, oh,’ ‘hey, hey, hey,’ or some other sounds the audience can sing along with, you increase your song’s chances of being recorded ten-thousand-fold.” I’m guessing it might not help quite to that extent, but his point is an important one.

One of the catchiest and most memorable elements of Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert’s number one duet, “Somethin’ Bad,” is the “oh, oh, oh” sung during the intro and included throughout the song. Similarly, Bruno Mars featured a hook sung on the syllables “oh, yeah, yeah, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” during the intro of his GRAMMY-nominated “Locked Out of Heaven.”

The use of non-lyric vocal hooks is not limited to any specific genres, and exceptional examples of these can be heard in Lady Antebellum’s “Compass,” Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” Britney’s “Till the World Ends,” Feist’s “1-2-3-4” and Keith Urban’s “Long Hot Summer.” While it won’t be right for every song, this tool is an important one that can help sear your song into listeners’ brains.

In summation, if you don’t give an artist, an A&R executive, record producer, music publisher—or your listeners—a compelling reason to choose your song over the competition—they won’t. Think outside the box and give your songs those extra points that can turn them from good songs to hit songs!



Jason Blume’s songs are on three Grammy-nominated albums and have sold more than 50,000,000 copies. One of only a few writers to ever have singles on the pop, country, and R&B charts, all at the same time—his songs have been recorded by artists including Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, the Gipsy Kings, Jesse McCartney, and country stars including Collin Raye (6 cuts), the Oak Ridge Boys, Steve Azar, and John Berry (“Change My Mind,” a top 5 single that earned a BMI “Million-Aire” Award for garnering more than one million airplays). In the past year he’s had three top-10 singles and a “Gold” record in Europe by Dutch star, BYentl, including a #1 on the Dutch R&B iTunes chart.

His songs have been included in films and TV shows including “Scrubs,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Assassination Games,” Disney’s “Kim Possible” “Dangerous Minds,” “Kickin’ it Old Skool,” “The Guiding Light,” “The Miss America Pageant,” and many more.

Jason authored three of the best selling songwriting books, 6 Steps to Songwriting Success, This Business of Songwriting, and Inside Songwriting, and is in his nineteenth year of teaching the BMI Nashville Songwriters workshops. A regular contributor to BMI’s Music World magazine, he presented a master class at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (founded by Sir Paul McCartney) and teaches songwriting throughout the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, the U.K., Canada, Bermuda, and Jamaica.

After twelve years as a staff-writer for Zomba Music, Blume now runs Moondream Music Group. For additional information about Jason’s latest books, instructional audio CDs, and workshops visit www.jasonblume.com.

 

Vocal Recording - Correcting Pitch

October 3, 2013

    When you're having problems in the studio with pitch and don't quite know how correct this problem, it can become very frustrating. Adding to the pressure to perform, the harder you try, the worse your pitch gets. This is almost universal in new singers recording for the first time, but even veteran and professional vocalists can be affected by pitch control issues.

An artist who is a really good live performer can enter the vocal booth and often experience a numbing of body language without even knowing it. The artist ceases to move, ceases to "communicate" with the body, the hands and the face. With the absence of the usual weight of the mic, the artist subconsciously leans forward with the head, causing the chests to cave in a bit. These actions cause issues with breathing, which affects the inhale, breath support and breath control. All these factors contribute to a lighter throat channel, which without fail lead to pitch problems.

What can a singer do to correct this? Here are four tips I've found to be effective for improving pitch control in the vocal booth:

1. Stand with your feet closer in towards the mic. This should cause you to have your head farther back, so you want unknowingly lean forward with your head. This

will also cause your chest to open, stretching the ribcage and diaphragm out, which will enable you to get better breath control. (Try not to lift your chin)

2. Don't cup the headphones because it tends to put a subtle weight on your ribcage which limits your diaphrams control of breath. So move your hands as you usually

would during a live performance.

3. Watch how you use reverb. When using reverb, too much or not enough, and you won't do as well. Use just enough to give you that "live" performance feel.

4. Take one headphone half off one ear. This will give you more of an accurate sense of your pitch. Everyone isn't comfortable doing this, but it certainly helps me.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you step into the booth to record and you will certainly be able to correct some of those frustrating pitch issues.
 

2 Common Things Artists Overlook When Promoting Music

August 19, 2013
To effectively promote your music, you have to appreciate the art and the business involved in becoming a successful recording artists. The art is easy to appreciate, but many artists find the business end to be a tedious task. The business part is easy to appreciate with success, so to help you achieve that success here is a list of 2 things that can be easily overlooked when growing a fanbase for your music.

1. Get your music out there to be heard

It's easy to overlook the simple fact that music comes first. So before marketing your music to potential fans to increase record sales, make efforts to simply get people to listen. Promote your song that has the potential to connect with the mass of your target audience. This could be accomplished by creating a song with a shocking message, or making a song that has mass appeal. Remember people need to find a reason to be passionate about your message. Once you've done this then you can start thinking about distribution and sales.

2.  Live Performances

Live shows are essential and are the foundation of building a strong loyal fanbase. People have the opportunity to really engage with you and your music during live performances. It also gives you the chance to reach a large audience. These are also great promotion opportunities that won't cost you anything. Imagine, all the people using their smartphones to communicate on Twitter and Facebook to share content during your live performance. You are also able to use that same content for later promotion campaigns. Live shows are your number 1 sales pitch.

Try not to forget that promotion is all experimental. Each campaign is different and will have different results. Learning from your mistakes and maintaining persistence is key.
 

Voice Overs

July 27, 2013
    Have you ever wanted to do voice overs? As artist who consistently utilize our voices for our music, it would only be a natural progression to also look into doing voice overs. Remember the last time you were watching TV, did you hear that voice announcing the next shows for tonight? That commercial with voice overs trying to sell you insurance, or maybe something to eat? Have you ever wondered who those hidden talents are, behind the scenes?

Doing voice overs is an exciting career opportunity which is relatively easy to get started with. Here are a few steps to get you heading in the right direction.

1. Getting Started - In order to start professionally doing voice overs, you will need a demo. As artist we already know recording in a studio can be pricey, so choose a quiet room in your home with no echoes. An area with a carpeted floor would be ideal.

2. Equipment - Of course you'll need a microphone, but there is no need to go all out and buy the most expensive one at Guitar Center or online at Amazon. A rather cheap USB microphone would do. Preferably one that comes with headphones. And you'll definitely need a computer to record your audio and a sound editor software, you can use free software like Audacity.

3. Auditioning - When creating your demo be sure to showcase your range of voice over work. You can do announcer reads, cartoons and commercials for example. It would be a good idea to download scripts from voice casting agencies online or you can model existing TV or radio commercials.

4. Getting your demo heard
- Email your demo to voice casting agencies and TV stations. Sites like Voices.com and Voice123.com can get you more exposure and potential job opportunities.

5. Be Consistent
- Consistency is the key here. So continue to send out your demo and even create a new demo to continue to showcase your voice over work. As artist we know how competitive it can be to get a foothold in the industry. So be sure to use your same professional work ethic when gaining success doing voice overs.

These are just a few tips to get you started that want cost you a lot of money, but if you have the budget, an agency would give you a real boost in the business of voice overs.
 

Cover Art Design

July 17, 2013
    The album cover art is the first thing potential buyers see when looking for music online and in retail stores. In this article, I intend to give you a few simple tips to help you when brainstorming about the design of your album cover.

1. Your band name or artist name should stand out or be eye catching. If your name can't be spotted at a glance, then your album cover want help your sales.

2. Make your album cover art unique and memorable. Don't forget that presentation is the key to getting potential buyers interested.

3. Don't over do it with images. The human brain can get overloaded by to much detail and images. So allow for some "white space". This allows the brain to focus more on the images that are there.

4. Be sure to choose artwork that reflects the music on the album or mixtape. If you're a rap artists you don't want to have images that are usually used to represent classical music.

5. Do not enlarge or over-scale images. Doing this can really compromise the quality of the image.

6. Get feed back. If you can, show several different design possibilities to fans, friends and family.

7. If you can, utilize the expertise of a professional graphic designer.

In closing, the album cover is more important than you may think. Put some planning and investment into your covers, and it's likely to make a positive difference in your album sales.
 

GETTING YOUR MUSIC ON PANDORA

July 12, 2013
    Why submit to Pandora? Hmm let's see!
 
Pandora is hands down the most used music radio station and can get your music some great exposure. Exposure is the first step to connecting with potential fans and industry professionals. Plus Pandora is a free way to get your music heard by the masses. Now some artists have neglected to use Pandora because they do not have the required UPC code or a listing of their CD on Amazon.com So first off lets talk about killing those two birds with a paper clip. Ok, you might be wondering "how am I gone kill two birds with a paper clip?" Well if you're a trained ninja assassin like myself then...

But seriously, back on topic! :)

So to get over that first obsticle, start off by using Amazon's Create Space sercive to distribute your music as an on-demand manufactured physical CD, don't worry it's all free. Once you have done this, step two will be automatica because they will supply you with a free UPC as well as list your music on Amazon. And while you're knocking over those two birds with a paper clip, go ahead and use their Artist Central to claim your artist page and control the branding of your music on Amazon.com.

Now lets hop on over to Pandora! Here is a list of things you'll need to get your music submitted:

1. A CD of your music
2. MP3 files for 2 of your songs
3. A UPC code(use the one Amazon.com supplied you)
4. The legal rights to your music

Ok, now that you've gotten all of those things together lets move on...but wait! Most important part of this process is to have the legal rights to your music, that includes the beats and instrumentals. Be sure to have obtained the appropriate license to those beats and instrumentals or you could have some serious legal troubles later. Got it? good! Let's get started.

Now:

a) Fill out the online submission form
b) Upload your 2 MP3 songs
c) They'll listen to your two songs
d) Then they'll view your submission form
e) If your music is approved you'll receive a Authorization Form
f) Next print out the Submission Authorization Form
g) Mail your CD with the form to Pandora
 
And sha-bang, pow, boom...Give it a lil time and your music will be added to Pandora

So if you're ready to get that much needed exposure and become the next famous recording artist, get started today.
 

Getting Your Name & Music Out There

July 3, 2013
Getting your foot in the door to the music industry can be a long and hard process. You may have a few songs prepared or even a few mixtapes and self published albums, but how do you get your name out there? A cost effective way to get it done would be to submit your material for an album review service. Using this service is a great way to start off your marketing strategy.

You typically just have to send the reviewer a copy of your album, mixtape, or song and they will take the time to listen to your music and post a honest review on their site.  Some of these services also include helping you with some of your further marketing for a small fee.

To get an album review, one of the best places online would be www.sputnikmusic.com ... You may have to do quite a bit of networking to get your music posted, but it would be well worth it.  They do quite a few reviews regularly and the best part is your album can even be reviewed by the other site users.

Don't delay, get a review and take the next major step to getting your name out there so your music can be heard by more listeners.
 

BEATS SOLO HD REVIEW

June 23, 2013
When the Beats by Dre headphones first came out, they caught my attention. Of course my initial evaluation was based on looks, because of their sleek and modern design. And of course their marketing did a great job of promoting them in various music videos.  So I decided to test them out for myself and see if they held up to all the hype.

The Solo HD looks great and offers a great fold-able design which allows you to take them just about anywhere. They also have ControlTalk technology which allows you to answer calls and have conversations while they are plugged into your cellphone/smartphone. Specifically designed for the iPhones, iPads, and iPods.

The HD's also differ from the regular Beats Solo's in style. Instead of having a matted finish they are glossy, and sturdier because a lot of buyers were commenting about how easily the regular Solos could brake. And this issue definitely has been addressed, because my Beats Solo HD have survived multiple falls and stretching due to accidental drops. As far as the noise cancellation, Beats Solo HD definitely drown out any surrounding sound. And as a self proclaimed headphone connoisseur, this is the best part about them. I enjoy listening to my music without any interruption and sometimes I just enjoy being able to escape from all the noise around me when I am traveling through airports. All in all, I would define the Beats Solo HD as a quality pair of headphones, though you could get other headphones which provide some of the same noise cancellation aspects for a much lower price. But the sturdiness and the ControlTalk technology is what sets them apart from other headphones.

The bottom line is the Beats Solo HD definitely deliver and are more than what was expected.


 

SELLING THE SONGS YOU HAVE WRITTEN TO INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS

June 20, 2013
So you have written some great music and would like to sell your songs to artists who are looking for great material, but you are unsure of how to go about it. Well this post will hopefully give you a little insight on how to get your music to the right people who can "do something" with it.

The most likely person who would listen to your music and promote it to artists would be a song publisher. Song publishers function as agents for songs and songwriters. Getting a song publisher to accept your song into their roster will guarantee you the efforts of someone pitching your songs to their music industry contacts.  If you are consistent with writing quality songs, they may even offer you a development deal or a staff writer position which would definitely bring in some much needed income.

You might be thinking, you don't want to deal with the hassle of finding a song publisher because you would like to sell your music directly to industry artists. Well, without having a proven track record of writing good music and having industry artists use it, it will be extremely difficult to get anyone to listen or even consider recording your songs. Industry artists who don't write their own music know their time is better spent reviewing pre-screened songs in a publishers roster.

So don't just let those potentially hit songs you've written just go unused, contact a song publisher who publish in the genre you write in to get your music heard by industry professionals.
 

BUILDING YOUR BRAND

June 10, 2013
When building your brand the number one goal should be to make your brand stand out so it sticks in people's minds. In order to do this your brand must have a distinctive look that is all its on. That look must be consistent where ever it appears; online, in social media, flyers, business cards, and all other forms of media. The message must be clear, so use words and or images that are simple to understand. Most importantly it must have the ability to connect on an emotional level with people through the message it delivers. Your brand should represent your values and principles as a company, so when people feel that connection to your values it will create a bond between them and your brand.

After you have established the logo of your brand, the next step is to start your marketing campaign. In order to be successful with any marketing you have to become familiar with your target audience. It is best to do some market research and analysis to define your target audience. Since your brand is represented by your logo or slogan, sometimes both, you must be diligent and precise about the way it comes across. Once you have built a successful brand, your company will start to flourish in the industry you are in. This is why it is essential to do extensive market research and identify your target audience so you can reap the rewards of brand marketing.

Building brands will never go out of style, however as your brand grows and consumers change you will have to reposition your brand and marketing efforts to keep up with the changing market. This is why market research and analysis is the key factor to the success of your brand. Consumers continuously evolve with a higher level of discernment, so you will have to always be conscious about the needs of your target audience. Customer Service will play a major role in your brands continued success, the accountability of your brand must be paramount. Always be ready to address any issues regarding your brand, this means you must be sure to have a plan in place to protect your brands name. Next the credibility of your brand is essential, so live up to what your brand promises to deliver. In order to survive in today's
market with all the technological changes that consistently develop your brand must be resilient enough to adapt. Being able to adapt while still remaining true to its values and promises keeps your brand current, relevant, and modern.  
 











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