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The 6 Rules Of Commercial Music Success
Over the years, I have had many conversations with music artists about commercial music, which usually lead to them revealing their disdain and hatred. Some people refer to pop music (“Pop” as in the current popularization) as commercial music.
Others think of anything that plays heavily on the radio as commercial music. Whatever their definition, one thing is often overlooked: commercial music is the heart of the music industry, pumping the blood that keeps it alive.
So why do so many musicians resist making music commercially? The answer I often get is because they don’t want to “sell out” their creative integrity by conforming to some industry version of what’s popular (ie what’s currently on sale). It is becoming very apparent to me that the problem is not with commercial music, but with the perception and definition of it.
The misconception is that the music industry created this superficial definition of commercial music to rob artists of their artistry and true identity in order to make money; it forces the artist to create songs that the “masses” will enjoy. This fallacy is often perpetuated by music artists who are generally unable (unwilling) to create commercially viable songs. The truth is that the public, not the industry, defines what is commercial and for decades they have been drawn to, embraced and bought songs that adhere to the commercial music format.
If commercial music is the rule of thumb for success and sales in the music industry, there will inevitably be some exceptions to this, but unfortunately the tendency is for music artists to try to be the exception instead of following the rules and why. exists.
Simply put, the rules of commercial music success haven’t changed, and they won’t. Not in your life, not in the lives of your children. They exist because it is human nature to reject the unknown; in the music industry, similarity is the cornerstone of acceptance. This is why many popular songs sound similar and contain familiar elements.
This is a rule that has spread across all genres and continents. There are artists who do a masterful job of observing their own artistic values while delicately balancing the commercial musical demands of industry professionals. Artists like Prince, Sting and Bjork have been pushing the envelope of creativity for years. But an artist with such sublime talent and vision is rare.
For the sake of clarity and argument, I present my explanation and industry definition of what commercial music is; Based on recordings listened to over 25 years as a music lover, music industry professional and music critic. These are songs that include:
1.) A STRONG HOOK/REMINDER CHORUS.
If no one knows the name of the song, they can’t ask for it when they hear it on the radio. More importantly, they can’t buy it at retail…or track it down online to illegally download a copy.
2.) GOOD SONG.
Commercial music is characterized by good melodies (e.g. verses, choruses, sometimes bridges that get stuck in your head and make you want to sing along). To what can the best-selling hip-hop artists of the last 10 years (Tupac, Notorious BIG, Jay-Z, Eminem and 50 Cent) attribute their success? Good melodies (not cool beats) that increase the commercial value of their music.
3.) WELL PRODUCED.
I come from an R&B background where producers are key to commercial music success, and I didn’t realize until I became a consultant that many rock bands don’t use and value producers like R&B acts. Perhaps they should, since the record company often hires the best producers to improve the quality of the songs (through their musical expertise) and enrich the records (through their experience and skill in the recording process), which ultimately makes the music more enjoyable to listen to and, you guessed it.. .more commercial!
4.) ATTRACTIVE TEXTS.
The text doesn’t have to be in-depth; people just need to be able to connect with them emotionally and connect with them mentally. If you say something general in an unusual way, your lyrics will have an advantage over a songwriter whose song is about the same topic. Write about what’s closest to your heart for authenticity and honesty, and others will relate to your songs—especially if it’s a topic they know or are familiar with.
5.) KEEP IT SHORT.
Keep songs to four minutes or less. Jazz and world music are exceptions. A well-written song makes people want to hear it again and again and again. The longer the song, the less likely this will happen. Don’t believe me? Check the length of your favorite songs.
6.) TALENT/DONE WELL.
Most great singers are often surprised at how low on the list this rule is. The thing is, there are more mediocre songs performed by great singers than mediocre singers performing outstanding songs. A good song performed well gives it an edge, but if the song is lacking, the screaming and vocal acrobatics the singers have to compensate for doesn’t make it a better tune… although it can help. the singer to attract better songwriters to work. If you lack talent and it’s a really good song, someone more talented can (and will) sing the song and make it better.
Now that you know the 6 rules of commercial music success, hopefully you can use this information to create songs that increase your chances of success in your professional music endeavors… or you can ignore them and continue to wonder why no one likes you (besides your friends and family – who all listen to commercial music) your songs.
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