We all know that ice cream comes in different flavors – Chocolate, Vanilla, Rocky Road, etc. – and someone who loves Double Fudge Chocolate might not be wild about Cherry Macaroon. Songwriting, too, comes in different flavors – Pop, Country, Rock, and Urban, among many others – and a listener who loves one flavor might not like another at all. Each flavor, or genre, appeals to a different audience.
Music publishers and record labels look very closely at genres. They know they have the best chance of reaching listeners and having a hit record if the songs they release fit into a popular radio genre, also known as a radio “format.”
As a songwriter, if you’re thinking about pitching your songs to the music industry, it’s important to be aware of contemporary genres and the songs that are currently successful in that genre. Once you know that, you’ll know what record labels, music publishers, and listeners are looking for. It will be much easier to get a record deal or publishing contract if you do.
Choose a genre and get familiar with it
Spend some time listening to current hits in the genre you want to write in. If you like Country music, listen to the top 20 current Country hits and study the chords, melodies, and lyrics to see what they have in common. This is what Country audiences are excited about right now, so it’s the type of song that music publishers in Nashville need right now.
If you’re interested in Rock, Pop, R&B/Soul or Hip-Hop, check out the current radio airplay charts to see which songs are getting the most play. These are the songs that listeners are eating up! You can find up-to-date Radio Airplay Charts at BDSradio.com and Billboard.com. Click on “Select Chart Here” and go through the charts you’re interested in. If you don’t know which charts to look at, check out a few. This is essential research for songwriters!
When you find a genre with a couple of songs you like, listen to them carefully. Explore the general songwriting characteristics of your genre by asking the following questions as you listen.
What is the theme of the song?
What kind of language is used?
What sorts of characters turn up in these songs?
How much contrast is being used between sections?
Are the melodies complicated or simple?
How much repetition is used, how much variation in the melody line?
Do you hear basic three-note chords primarily?
What other kinds of chords are being played?
How frequently are the chords changing?
These are just a few of the questions that will help you study your genre. No one wants to sound exactly like everyone else but it’s important to incorporate enough of a genre’s characteristic sound to fit into a radio format. Blend it with your own style to make sure YOU still sound like YOU, but give it an extra push toward radio.
Songwriting techniques to try
Go to BDSradio.com or Billboard.com and look at some of the radio airplay charts. Pick one or two songs that sound interesting and listen to them on Spotify or Apple Music, or buy them on iTunes. While you listen, go through the list of questions above and see how many you can answer. Listen to songs in a range of genres and compare them to hear the differences.
Want even more? Click here for three MORE hot songwriting tips!