Why are some songs embraced by the general public and some are not?

Does it have anything to do with talent? Or how much money is thrown at it? Or its production values?

Maybe.

However, I think the main reason that a song is embraced by the general public is that the general public “gets” the song. It’s like the songwriter wrote the song with the listener in mind.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of judging song competitions and mentoring a lot of up-and-coming songwriters and one of the major songwriting mistakes that I’ve come across is that the songwriter has not included me (the listener) in their song.

They have not acknowledged the fact that there’s another person listening to their song by not including me in their musical story or conversation.

When this happens I’m always left with a slightly cold feeling in my heart and I’m left asking the question “well, what was all that about?”

Let me tell you, if a seasoned songwriter like myself can be left out in the cold in this way, imagine how your potential audience would feel if the same thing happened to them?

I’ve heard songwriters from time to time say things to me like…

  • “I only write songs for myself and no-one else”
  • “If other people like my songs then it’s a bonus”
  • “I don’t care what other people think. I write for me”

Now, statements like this are fine if you’re a songwriter who write songs only for yourself and no-one else (if that’s the case then great) however, I know that there are many others out there who don’t fit into that category.

I mean, Lets face it… We, as songwriters generally want as many people as possible to hear our songs. Am I right?

Of course I am.

Therefore, it would make sense that if you write your songs with the listener in mind then your chances of a greater number of people hearing your songs would dramatically increase. Does this make sense to you?

Of course it does.

“So, how do we do this?” I hear you ask. Well, my answer would be this…

“Respect the listener and write your songs for them and not for yourself.”

It’s a simple concept, but it’s hard to master. That’s why songwriting is called a craft.

Writing a song that touches, moves and inspires people to listen to it lies squarely in the ability of the songwriter to involve the listener in the song.

A well written song takes the listener by the hand and walks beside them on whatever journey it takes them. As a songwriter you want the listener to know what your song is about after all, if a listener “gets” your song they also “get” you as well.

There’s a quote that’s normally associated with sales training that sums up beautifully what I am trying to say here. It goes a bit like this…

“In order to be understood first you must seek to understand”

You need to write your song with the listener in mind, you need to realise that the average listener wants to embrace your song without jumping through too many musical hoops and in the shortest amount of time.

Is writing songs for your listener as well as yourself “selling out?” No, I don’t think so.

What you are really doing by including the listener into your songwriting process is creating a gift for the listener and through the act of creating, you are also giving a gift to yourself.

Remember, seek to understand your listener through your songwriting and they will understand you through your songs. THAT is the craft of songwriting.

What do you think? Is writing songs with the listen in mind a great way to extend the conversation and relationship between you, the songwriter and your audience? Or, is it selling out? Let me know what you think.

Until next time, keep on writing,

Corey Stewart
All About Songwriting