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Appeal Versus Commercial Writing


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Songwriters often shun the idea of being "commercial" in their writing, without pausing to think about the what they are throwing away under the heading "commercial". I've seen so many songwriters that don't edit, or are only open to editing certain parts of songs purely on the grounds that writing in a way that makes their lyrics more appealing is equated with selling out to commercialism.

One of the points of writing a song is to communicate. One of the reasons can be to make a point. In most cases we want to:

  • Make our message understandable
  • Make it easily digestable (don't confuse with watered down)
  • Make it able to do both of the previous two points to as broad a collection of listeners as possible

When I review a lyric I try to view it from these perspectives. Appeal is what we generally want, even when we say something controversial, shocking or offensive. Paying attention to these aspects of writing a song helps to achieve appeal. With lyrics that can sometimes be a tweak of phrasing, a structural change, hook type and hook placement etc.

Writers often think that "rules" are there to be broken. That somehow they don't need to think about them. The fact is they are guidelines. Something to be aware of when writing, understanding that structures, hooks, rhyme schemes etc all effect appeal, understandability, and digestability.

The fact that commercial music also desires these qualities does not devalue them as useful perspective son the part of the writer

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