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"How To Pick Your Next Single"

What makes a recording a hit?
First, letís just tackle an easier one...
What makes a recording good?
Publishers and writers usually say itís the song.
Lyricists say itís the words.
Composers say itís the music.
The artists say itís the vocal performance.
The musicians say itís the arrangement.
Producers say itís the whole package.
I tend to side with the producers,
but, being good doesnít guarantee a hit.
Sadly, itís not a quality contest.
There are plenty of things along the way
that can kill a great record,
or make a bad one popular.
Most of these involve money and politics.
For instance,
if you and an artist who is managed by the labelís vice-president
both release a single the same week,
which one do you think will get the promotion?
This was our experience with one of the major labels.
There are less politics in the Indie field,
but there are still problems in selecting single
that will help your career.
Things to consider...
Twenty-four hour programming:
If the song is too slow, DJís might not play it in the daytime.
They like to keep the audience awake in the morning
and during drive time.
If itís too slow they may not play it after dark,
when listeners are trying too relax.
Medium is the safest tempo,
but there are a lot of hits that donít follow this rule.
A story lyric? A singalong? A novelty? A ballad?
And on and on.
Momentum.
If youíve had some recent airplay with ballads,
do you need a similar follow-up
or a change of pace?
Some DJís like the old time sound,
and some like it more modern.
No matter which you choose,
somebody wonít like it.
Thatís okay.
You donít need everybody to like it.
Just apply some skin thickener.
Hereís how we do pick singles.
We listen to all the potential singles we have
and narrow it down to a short list,
our criteria being ďWhat WE likeĒ.
Although weíve learned that we canít second-guess the public
thatís usually what we try to do next.
We analyze tempo, lyric and music content, vocal performance, etc..
We get discouraged and angry
and say we donít care.
Then we try again.
When we have it down to two or three,
we take a poll of our friends.
If we donít like the poll results,
we throw them away.
We listen to the short list over and over
until we canít hear it anymore.
We try listening from the next room,
and from the backyard.
We finally pick one and send it in to the record company.
As soon as the mailbox slams shut,
we start thinking we sent the wrong one.
We begged the record label not to release our biggest hit:
ďTennessee BirdwalkĒ.
I thought ďSomewhere in Virginia in the RainĒ
had too many chords for country music.
Our most popular songs have been
fast, slow, funny, serious,
and unexpected.
We press on regardless.
I think the only good rule is this:
Donít put out anything that is so bad that it will embarrass you.
When you play it for friends,
you donít want to have to cough
to cover certain parts.

Copyright © March 21, 2004, Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.

 

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