Growing up with my parents’s favorite bands such as the Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel, I recently noticed 3 major changes in how songs are written now as opposed to 30+ years ago.
Understanding these 3 major changes in the songwriting industry is important because the consequences are very present in which songs make it to the radio (thus, your audience) and which don’t.
Your job in reading these 3 points is to figure out how they apply to your life and what you could do to incorporate them directly into your writing.
1. The Niches Are More Defined
We have all heard how pop music is all the same now, right?
I think the #1 reason for this is not that songwriters have lost their originality, I think it is because if you DO try to do something differently, your song is immediately classified as “Alternative”.
In other words, I don’t think it’s about creativity, it’s about the definition of pop music.
If you’ve ever studied marketing you’ll know that the smaller your niche, the better. If you listen to a certain radio channel at a certain time you will pretty much hear the same kind of songs over and over again.
This is not because there’s nothing different out there, it’s because they know that if you liked song #1, you’ll most likely stick around for song #2 as well. If they played something different for song #2, the chances of you changing the channel is much higher. Make sense?
I personally think music has never seen better days. Given the fact that producing your own music is easier and cheaper than ever, there is a continuous stream of new styles and sounds.
If you think all pop music is the same, it’s because you’re listening in the same place! It’s like you’re only eating at Burger King and complaining that all food is unhealthy.
Btw, if you want to learn how to write commercially, learn one of the rules here.
2. Story Is Dead
One advice you’ll read again and again in songwriting books is to tell a story with your lyrics.
The idea is to hook your audience with an intriguing story so they listen to your entire song.
This doesn’t work anymore.
Today, we’ve moved away from stories and mostly even individual scenes to moments. The songs that often connect the best are the ones that can portray a relatable moment in your audience’s life.
Think of Rather Be or Stay With Me, both huge, huge hits – neither of them tell full, fleshed out stories.
For a more modern way of telling your stories, check out my book “The Addiction Formula”.
3. Production Is Now A Part Of Songwriting
It used to be so simple: You write a song and then you produce it.
Today, things have changed: Sound Design & Arrangement have become a HUGE part of the actual writing process.
Some songs are so dependent on production that often backing tracks have to be used in live shows.
Is this a bad thing? Absolutely not. It’s a whole new world of tools at your disposal.
As songwriters try to incorporate more and more sound design and creative production into their writing, a new kind of song emerges that is unmistakably this century. Think auto-tune or changing formants… The possibilities are endless.
For examples of songs that thrive on clever production, listen to Lady Gaga’s Swine, Beyoncé’s 7/11 or Justin Timberlake’s Don’t Hold The Wall. For more on how to use production to tell your story, check out my book “The Addiction Formula”.