It’s What I Want To Hear!


It’s not about you.  It’s about the listener.  What’s in it for the listener?

As we began discussing last week (READ IT HERE), successful songwriters know it’s not about us- it’s about the listener.  When it comes to your song, what’s in it for the listener?  What’s going to make them stick around till the end and hit “repeat?”

If your song doesn’t have something in it for the listener, there’s no money in it for you.

Yep.  I just said that.

So, for the next few weeks, I’m going to be pointing out some things you can build into your song that can connect with your listeners.  So let’s dive in.

all about the listener

“It’s what I want to hear!”

Back when the Steve Holy single, “Good Morning, Beautiful” was climbing the charts and getting a bunch of radio spins… I didn’t quite get it.

I mean, it was okay, but I didn’t really get what all the fuss was about.  So I asked a female friend of mine, Heather, why she liked it so much. She just smiled and said, “Because it’s what I want to hear somebody say to me.”

Ooooohhh… (I’m a little slow sometimes.)

So a singer directly addressing the female listener and telling her something sweet that she wants to hear… makes her want to listen.  (Note to self: Try this on my wife.)

So one way to make your song more “cut/able” is to have your lyric say something the listener wants to hear.  Tell her she’s pretty.  Tell him you want to kiss him.  Yes, I know this should be pretty obvious, but if you’re like me… sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious.

So here’s your homework.  Turn on the radio or your favorite playlist.  Find a song or two that answers the question, “What’s in it for the listener?” with “It’s what I want to hear!”  (Either you yourself as the listener or what a listener of the other gender would want to hear.)  Please leave a comment and let me know what you discovered!

If you’re interested in learning other ways to make your songs more “cut-able,” check out “Cut/able: Lessons In Market-Smart Songwriting.”  It’ll give you a ton of valuable insight into writing the type of commercial songs that artists want to record and audiences want to hear!

If you want to become a songwriting pro (in how you think, write songs or do business), then a great place to start is RIGHT HERE.  I want to help you on your songwriting journey.  I’ve been in the music business for years, and I’m here to help you get the cuts – and avoid the bruises.  CLICK HERE TO START HERE.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,


Brent Baxter is a hit songwriter with cuts by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Lady Antebellum, Joe Nichols, Gord Bamford, Ruthie Collins, Ray Stevens, and more. He’s written a top 5 hit in the US and a #1 in Canada… so far.


6 thoughts on “It’s What I Want To Hear!”

  1. Maybe it’s just me… I don’t know. yes commercially viable songs is always important. The best of the best have always done that from Willie Nelson to the Beatles to Tim McGraw.
    And no I’m not negating anything said in these blog posts as just like everyone else, I want our songs to make us money. (We want to retire and stop punching the time clock) However…
    As an artist…don’t we owe just a bit more to our listeners? Sure they want to hear “Baby I Love You” and You’re Pretty and so on.
    However, I think that more often than not listeners are actually looking for someone to come along and “Say What They Are Thinking” more than just tell them something sweet to them. And say it with a poetry and passion that they as listeners know they cannot create themselves.
    Example: Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying.” Without ever once saying the word cancer, he “voiced” all the feelings, thoughts, worries, tears, anguish and struggle of everyone who has ever…Had Cancer, had a loved one, or family member touched by that horrific disease and it’s subsequent turmoil. With his words he pictured every single area that the disease touches from the physical medical (spent most of th next days staring at x-rays) to the feelings of loss of family, friends and life itself. And provided a positive outcome/solution to it…by saying screw the disease and go live life like there IS no tomorrow. These are the things every day people think about, and obsess with when touched by this universal killer of mankind. Not a pretty song, but a beautiful expression of what really matters in life. Not a party song. And yet for a long period of time it was the most played on radio across all genres from country, to rock, to soul and r&b. It’s still an instant crowd pleaser from low rent saloons to concert halls.
    Here’s another example which also goes to perspective of song and cultures as they change and develop.
    Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence.” Both the original version and the relatively new release by the Metal Band “Disturbed.” The original version totally reflects the character of the 1960’s/70’s. How people thought and felt. The whole college student young people breaking away from the status quo.
    But the re release by Disturbed is an entirely different feeling and as current to today’s Millenia World as it could possibly be.
    I seriously doubt if any A&R person would have even touched “Disturb’s” Version of this song back then…just as they shunned music by Led Zeppelin and Frank Zappa. But today? I find I like that version better than the original because it’s so REAL to me in today’s world.
    Same exact lyrics…same music, but with a perspective that is all about the world we live in today.
    This makes the song “Timeless”
    So yes by all means make commercially solid songs and make your money…but don’t ever forget that to be able to write lyrics and music in the first place is a gift. A divine gift and should never be treated as just another paycheck. Not everyone can can do it…but they always love it when someone can speak their minds and make it beautiful.

    1. Hey, Martin! Yes, there are other things that can be in it for the listener, and you’ve touched on a few of them. All I can stay is… stay tuned!

  2. I think we, as songwriters, need to touch emotions, lift down spirits, or give the listener a situation to which they can easily relate. In today’s difficult world we need songs of hope and inspiration without being preachy. Nostalgia that reminds us of the good things in the past is also uplifting. An occasional sad song can help us to process a loss, though I doubt it would be a huge hit.

    I’m sad and disappointed that most of today’s hits are “party songs.” Don’t people want to feel and think anymore?

    1. Especially if it’s some stupid electronic pop tune that’s using the melody to ” London Bridge Is Falling Down ”

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