Tag Archives: Luke Bryan

Building A Hit: Luke Bryan & “Light It Up”

Luke Bryan’s current single, “Light It Up,” is lighting up the country singles chart. Today, let’s take a look at some of the ways they built this song to be a Luke Bryan hit.

If you want to write hits, too… read on!

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To BE a pro, you need to THINK like a pro, and this FREE ebook will help transform your thinking, your songwriting, and your success.  Get it today!

Click Here For The Book

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Let’s look at some of the choices that Bryan and Old Dominion member, Brad Tursi, made when building “Light It Up.” Now, I wasn’t in the room with them, so I can only speculate at the thought process behind the end results. But as a professional songwriter myself, I can take an experienced and educated guess. So let’s dive in.

1. Stick to the brand.

Overall, this song is built to fit Luke’s brand of country. The lyric is young, hip and sexy. It’s a love song, and a desperate one at that (more on that in a second). The lyric sings “me to you,” which is more sexy and impactful. Luke is singing TO the female in the audience, pleading with her to light his phone up. The phrasing and production are also more progressive than traditional, which also fit’s Luke’s brand.

 2. Speak to a large audience.

How many people can relate to desperately hoping someone will call, to the point where they obsessively check their phones? That’s a pretty universal thing, so that’s a large audience who can relate to it- especially Luke’s target of young listeners. Also, notice how the lyric doesn’t talk about how he checks his phone 100 times at work? (Has Luke EVER had a job in his songs?)

He keeps it young. Yet, he doesn’t talk about checking his phone at school, either. He sidesteps both and keeps the lyric open enough that both junior high school kids and young professionals can relate to it. Really, anyone missing someone can relate to it. It’s open and speaks to a large audience.  But it isn’t vague, which leads me to…

3. Show me, don’t tell me.

There are a lot of images in the song, and it puts us in the moment. Right in the first line, we see him open his eyes and reach for his phone. We see him checking the phone right after his shower and almost wrecking his truck checking it. We see him unlock his screen, and we see her red lipstick picture. As I mentioned in my last point, it’s open enough for many, many listeners to relate, but it is not at all vague. He’s not just saying he misses her, he shows us how he checks his phone all throughout the day.

4. Focus the lyric’s emotion.

The story is one of tension and desperation, bordering on obsession. The lyric is relentless in painting the picture of the guy whose whole world is wrapped up in waiting on her to call. Notice how many times they repeat “I check it” throughout the song. The repetition is intentional. Not only is it real and relatable, it builds the sense of obsession and angst.

Also, they keep the song “in the moment.” Luke doesn’t sing about how he kept checking his phone after their fight in the past. No, we follow along throughout his day as he checks his phone, checks his phone, and checks his phone. It’s immediate. It’s “right now.” And it adds to the sense of tension and desperation.

The writers know the emotional button they’re pushing, and they keep pressing it. They don’t get sidetracked with other emotions- they don’t “muddy the waters” of the song. They know what they want the listener to feel, and they focus on that. They keep it simple. And there’s power in that simplicity.

Okay, those are four areas in which Luke Bryan and Brad Tursi built “Light It Up” to be a hit song. Of course, those aren’t the only elements that make “Light It Up” a hit, but they’re four important ones. If YOU want to discover even more of the elements of building a hit song, I have an awesome opportunity for you.

In the month of January, I’m hosting a transformative online songwriting event called, “Building A Hit: From Blank Page To Finished Lyric.” In this powerful 4-week online workshop, I reveal:

How to find great song ideas. Kill writers block and fill up that blank page again and again.

How to focus your ideas for maximum impact. Don’t waste any more great ideas by leaving them under-developed or confusing.

How to frame your idea for maximum commercial appeal. Having a great, compelling idea isn’t enough. You have to build your song in a way that an artist will want to sing it and an audience will want to hear it.

How to finish your song. Stop leaving your best ideas unfinished. Nobody loves a song they never hear, and a song that’s only 99% finished will never get recorded, never get on the radio, and never change your life.

If you want to join me on a journey that will help you think and write like a pro songwriter, click on the link below. Spots are limited for this event, and I only host it twice a year. Miss out, and it’s gone for another 6 months. Don’t delay. Transform your songwriting today..

DON’T MISS OUT- CLICK HERE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS GREAT OPPORTUNITY.

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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, a #1 in Canada & a top 10 in Texas… so far.

Cut/able Songwriting: Luke Bryan & “Fast”

Luke Bryan’s #1 hit, “Fast” is a 90’s country song at heart.  But it’s written to appeal to today’s market. As a result, it appeals to both sides of the “bro country” divide. How’d the writers do that? How’d they make “Fast” so cut/able? Let’s take a look.

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To BE a pro, you need to THINK like a pro, and this FREE ebook will help transform your thinking, your songwriting, and your success.  Get it today!

Click Here For The Book

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So what makes the song “Fast” an undercover 90’s song?

Well, there are a few things. The song is more love than just lusty, for one thing. The singer is a little more sensitive than cool (though he’s by no means a sissy). There’s a little more depth. Yes, it’s ultimately a love song, but it’s also a life song. Life goes too fast.

It also flirts with being a 3-act play, where each verse or bridge spotlights a different story or event of the singer’s past, present or future, and each of these sections shines a different light on the chorus.

“Fast” though, riffs off the 3-act play.

Verse 1 talks about high school and wanting a fast car or fast home team athletes. Whereas a standard 90’s style 3-act play would talk about “when I was 16, all I wanted was a fast car. At 17, all I wanted were faster receivers to throw to, etc.” this doesn’t take you there. But it evokes high school days with the universal “you” (more on this later). Verse 2 moves to different theme – young, rebel love. Then the Bridge brings it to the present moment.

Right now, let’s look at “Fast” through the areas I highlight in my workbook, “Cut/able.”

IMAGERY

While this song isn’t overloaded with imagery, the writers do throw a few well-placed ones into the lyric. Verse 1 opens on a fast car when you’re 16. I bet that made you flash back to a memory. What did you see? The “hometown team” line make me picture my high school football days. Those images punch the nostalgia button.

The chorus gives you the hourglass sand. Verse 2 doesn’t have much. I see parents, but that’s about it. Then the bridge really paints the picture of the smiling girl in the dress looking out the window. The writers do the most work to “put you in the moment” when they bring the song to the present… moment. Cool, huh?

GAPS (Growth, Achievement, Preaching/Positioning, Songwriting)

“Fast” fills a gap for Luke Bryan on growth. It allows Luke to talk about love and life from a little more mature perspective. Sure, it isn’t “old grandpa wisdom.” Luke’s not handing out answers to the questions of life, but it’s deeper than his usual tailgates and tan lines subject matter. And it’s also more true love than tailgate lust. It’s the same guy from those other songs – just a little older in love.

PUL/D (Positive, Uptempo, Love / Depth)

Songs simply tend to be more cut/able when they’re positive, uptempo, and about love or something with some depth. “Fast” checks several of those boxes by being positive (yes, there’s a bittersweet emotion to it, but he’s happily in love). It’s a love song, as I just mentioned, and it also pulls off some depth – being about how life moves too fast. No, it’s not an uptempo, but it has a nice mid-tempo feel. The point is- it’s not a slow ballad.

MVPOV (Most Important Point Of View)

This is where the writers, Luke Bryan, Luke Laird, and Rodney Clawson) really pull off something cool. They manage to break a “rule” and make it pay off. Luke sings from the “me to the world” point of view (in Cut/able, I call it the 4th POV) in the Verse 1 and Chorus 1. Then in the 1st POV (“me” singing to “you, specifically”) in Verse 2 and the Bridge.

This is cool because the 4th POV is great for anthems and universal sentiments. And 1st POV is best for romantic love songs. “Fast” plays on both these levels, so the POV does, too.

I’d normally advise against mixing POVs, but these guys are great songwriters (and they wrote it with the artist), so they got away with it. You and I need to be very careful about mixing POVs, though.

NEIGHBORHOODS

Luke Bryan’s neighborhood has mostly been solidly “bro country.” Young, shallow, sexy, tailgates and parties. As I mentioned under GAPS, this song grows him beyond that a little. But it’s not a leap across town. He still keeps one foot planted firmly in “bro.” Here’s how:

Verse 1 begins the song with bro-friendly subjects of fast cars and hometown sports. Verse 2 has some rebellious teenage romance. Her parents disapprove. It’s not grand theft auto, but fast cars and rebellious teen love help him keep his bro cred.

Lastly, and this is a big one, they keep it young!

The theme of the song could have easily led them to write about getting married, getting some gray hairs and watching their kids grow up “too fast.” But that’s not Luke’s neighborhood. They keep it young. For all we know, he and the girl have only been together a year or two (when you’re 20, two years together seems like a long time). But it’s written openly enough that they could be married and they could be middle-aged or older. It’s not vague, but it’s open enough that the listeners can see their own lives in it.

Basically, “Fast” hits on a lot of commercial principles I advocate in Cut/able. The songwriters really hit the nail on the head with this one.

If you’re ready to take YOUR commercial songwriting to the next level, I have a great opportunity for you.

In August 2017, I’m hosting “The C4 Experience (C4X)” event.  This is YOUR opportunity to really focus in on writing more commercial songs.  You’ll get expert coaching and a small, supportive community.  And with it being online, you can join us from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.  If you want details, just CLICK HERE.  Tickets are on sale now, and space is limited to only 10 songwriters!

God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

SWP 4

The C.L.I.M.B. #43: 5 Ways Songwriters Make Their Lyrics Too Old

On today’s episode: shacking up, drinking, plastic surgery, Barney the dinosaur, and making your lyrics too old!

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The C.L.I.M.B. Podcast Episode 43 is live and ready for download!

In this week’s episode, Johnny and I discuss 5 ways that some songwriters make their lyrics too OLD.  It’s a “young” market, and you can torpedo your song’s chances of success by putting these 5 things in your songs!  (Be sure and subscribe so you never miss another helpful episode!)

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE C.L.I.M.B. ON ITUNES

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE C.L.I.M.B. ON STITCHER (for Android)

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN ON THE C.L.I.M.B. WEBSITE

The C.L.I.M.B. stands for “Creating Leverage In The Music Business,” and that’s the goal of this podcast- to help singers, indie artists and songwriters like YOU to create leverage in the music business.  What is leverage?  It’s “strategic advantage; the power to act effectively.”  We want to help YOU make stuff happen in the music biz.

It’s exciting to see how folks are digging the show- and being helped on their CLIMB.  If YOU like it, we’d really appreciate it if you’d subscribe and leave a rating or review on iTunes.  Positive ratings and reviews help us to climb the iTunes rankings so more people become aware of the show and we can help more singers, songwriters, and indie artists like you make The CLIMB!The CLIMB iTunes review 3

CLICK HERE TO LEAVE AN iTUNES REVIEW

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CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE C.L.I.M.B. ON ITUNES

If you aren’t on iTunes, you can listen to the show at our website:

TheCLIMBshow.com

If you have an Android phone, you can subscribe to the show on:

Stitcher

Thanks for your time. It means a lot to me, and hopefully it’ll be a lot of help for you!

God Bless and keep C.L.I.M.B.ing,

Brent

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.

That’s Who I Am!

SWP 2

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

As we began discussing a few weeks ago (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 last week and the week before, and I’m still saying it.

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 far, we’ve discussed “It’s What I Want To Hear” and “It’s What I Want To Say.”    This week, let’s talk about…

all about the listener

“That’s Who I Am (or want to be)!”

“She wears short skirts, I wear sneakers.  She’s cheer captain and I’m in the bleachers.”  How many young girls hear themselves in those lines?  Not only does Taylor Swift say in that song what so many girls want to say, she IS who so many girls ARE.

When the listener sees him or herself in your song, it’s powerful.  Let’s be honest- most folks’ favorite topic is themselves.

But you can also connect with a listener by being who they WANT to be.  Jimmy Buffett is a great example of this.  So much of his music is escapism.  Most Parrotheads aren’t beach bums, but we sure want to be!  I want to  crank it up in my earbuds while sitting by the neighborhood swimming pool and pretend I’m really on the beach, where I’ll be again tomorrow… and the next day… and the next day…

How many country boys are big-time ladies men like Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line present themselves?  Not many.  But a lot of them sure want to feel that cool.  He wants to feel like the girl’s right in the palm of his hands, dancing for him in the truck headlights by the river, right before she slips out of that sun dress and invites him into the water for a skinny dip.

Really, if that happened as much in real life as it happens in country songs, the out-of-wedlock birth rate would be a whole lot higher.  It’s who a lot of the young male listeners want to be.  It’s male fantasy.  But, hey… it sells.

If you want to immediately connect with a listener, sing their life (or the life they want) back to them.

One way to make your song more “cut/able” is to have your lyric say sing the listener’s life back to him.

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 “That’s who I am (or want to be)!”  (Either you yourself as the listener or who a listener of the other gender would want to be.)  Please leave a comment and let me know what you discovered!

If you want your songs to be more “cut/able” – able to be cut – then you should definitely check out my new, expanded and upgraded version of “Cut/able: Lessons In Market Smart Songwriting.” It’s five powerful lessons will help you write songs that artists want to sing, radio wants to play, and listeners want to hear! CLICK HERE TO WRITE CUT/ABLE SONGS.

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God Bless and Enjoy the Journey,

Brent

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.

SWP 4

Encore: The Band Is A Brand. Are You Brand Conscious?

Here’s an encore of one of my very first blog posts.  I’m sharing it for two reasons: 1) a lot of you have started following this website since it was originally posted (thanks!) and might find this post helpful, and 2) I need to lay low this week.  I’ve been getting so busy with Songwriting Pro stuff that I’ve neglected some very important things (namely Bible study and prayer time).  Plus, Emily and I are adopting and there is a TON of paperwork (and even more need for Bible study/prayer time).

Thanks for understanding.  I hope to be back in the swing of things next week!

God Bless,

Brent

Man vs. PRO

This is the part of songwriting I didn’t know I was signing up for- the business, strategic side of things. Sure, I have my MBA, but I really just wanted to write my songs and have them pitched by somebody to somebody and- whammo! Cuts. But the world is how it is, not how I wish it were. So now I think about artists as brands and try to act accordingly.

An artist is a brand, and they and their team (label, promotion, management) work really hard to position their brand (artist) into a certain place in the market. In business terms, they want to increase their market share- on radio and in our wallets. Everything supports the brand image: album artwork and photos, songs, videos, etc.

Artists are looking for songs that fit their brand.

Whether you are writing FOR or WITH a certain artist, it’s important for you to understand their brand. Ask yourself: who is their audience- who do they speak to? What message do they send to their fans? How do they deliver this message? How do they want to be perceived? This goes deeper than just “traditional country” or “pop country.”

If you can write a song that really fits an artist’s brand, you have a great opportunity. Think about “Real Good Man” for Tim McGraw. What a great song for him. Musically, it fits him well. Great feel, and Tim can sing it. Lyrically, that’s totally his persona- a real bad boy, but a real good man.

The artist is Coke. Their songs are Coke Classic, Cherry Coke, Coke Zero, Diet Coke, etc. They want songs that both reinforce and expand their brand. They may want Cherry Vanilla Coke or Raspberry Coke or something. Your song needs to fit on the same shelf. Your song may be the best $200 bottle of wine to be found, but it doesn’t matter. That artist is Coke.

Taco Bell doesn’t sell hamburgers.

My buddy, Tim Meitzen, told me one time, “They only have about three ingredients, but they keep putting them in different shapes!” That’s how some artists are. They keep giving you the same basic ingredients, but they put a little different spin on them. And when they do add something new, say, a Dorito as a taco shell, it still makes sense for the brand.

Luke Bryan is married with children. (So was Al Bundy, but that’s a different topic altogether.) Anyway, Luke has a family, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to his music. His music presents him as a Spring Breakin’ tailgatin’ good ‘ol party-boy who loves the ladies. I believe there’s only one song in which he has a wife and kids. But that was on his first album before he really found his image/voice/brand. And it wasn’t a single. Since he found his image, he has really stuck to it. And who can blame him? It’s working great.

It’s not about what you think an artist should sing or who they should be

… or where you think they should go as an artist. Unless you’re in their circle of influence, it doesn’t really matter what you want. Sorry.

I ran into a branding issue with Lady Antebellum.

Back before Lady A existed, I wrote a song with Hillary Scott, Casey Koesel, and Jon Armstrong called, “A Woman Scorned.” It’s a fun, rocking, fairly aggressive song that shows off Hillary’s vocals really well. Later, when she, Charles, and Dave formed Lady Antebellum, they started playing our song in all their shows (it’s on YouTube). They even cut it for their debut album. Score! Right? Wrong. When it came time to deciding which last couple of songs wouldn’t make the record, “A Woman Scorned” was reduced to a bonus track. That was disappointment with zeroes on the end of it. But after hearing their album, I understood why. It didn’t fit their brand. It was too aggressive. Even though the song had served them well and helped them get their deal, it didn’t fit the image. I couldn’t argue with that.

The lyric and melody BOTH have to work for the artist.

I’ve mainly focused on lyrical content, but the music has to fit the artist’s brand, too. Miranda Lambert isn’t likely to cut a song that sounds like Shania Twain no matter how well the lyric fits her. Ask yourself: is this song the right kind of pop? The right shade of country?

And it’s important to remember that these brands change over time. They aren’t locked in forever. Lonestar was one thing before “Amazed,” and another thing after. Toby Keith was one thing before “How Do You Like Me Now” and another thing after. Kenny Chesney had a slower, but no less important transition to beaches and nostalgia. So don’t lock a brand in your mind with super glue. Make sure to look for the shifts that are inevitable.

Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

God bless and enjoy the journey,

Brent

How To Keep Your Phrasing Interesting

Man vs Row

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.

Phrasing is the rhythm of the lyrics (and the spaces in-between) as they fit into the melody. You could say it’s the “bounce” of the words.

Phrasing could be melodic and slow, like the chorus on “Drink A Beer” recorded by Luke Bryan and written by Chris Stapleton and Jim Beavers. It could be more like a rap, like the verses of “Boys ‘Round Here” recorded by Blake Shelton and written by Craig Wiseman, Thomas Rhett, and Dallas Davidson. Or it could be somewhere in between.  (And I’m not talking about lyrical CONTENT here.  I’m not telling you what subject matter to write.  I’m just talking about the rhythm and spacing of the words, whatever those words happen to be.)

It’s hugely important to keep your phrasing interesting.

(Back when I was starting out, I had a pro songwriter- the son of my church’s music minister- listen to some of my songs.  He said, “I can tell you grew up Baptist. The songs all phrase like Baptist hymns.  You need to make your phrasing more interesting.”  My reaction was… “what’s phrasing?”)

Play with your phrasing. Mix it up. If you’re not great at writing uptempo songs, try writing faster, more interesting phrasing within your slower tempos. Brantley Gilbert and Colt Ford did this well when they wrote “Dirt Road Anthem,” which went on to become a #1 country single for Jason Aldean. The tempo wasn’t that fast- the song felt really laid back. It’s the rapid-fire phrasing on the verses which really gives the song its energy (instead of giving it a power chorus or a fast tempo).

You don’t want your lyric to have the same “bounce” all the way through.

Mix up the phrasing between your verse and your chorus. This will help you vary the melody between the verse and chorus, too. That’s really important. Also, make sure your verse doesn’t have the same bounce to every line.  Mix it up there, too.

Right now, rap-like lyrics are pretty popular in country music, but who knows how long that’ll be the case. My best advice is to just keep it interesting, whatever you do.

What do you think?  What are YOUR thoughts or questions on phrasing?  Do you have trouble mixing it up?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

God Bless,

Brent

1-TO-1 COACHING

Hey, ya’ll! Several of you have been asking about 1-to-1 coaching opportunities.  Well, over the next few weeks, I’ve made a few sessions available.  It’s our chance to sit down together (over the phone or over the web) and discuss your songwriting goals, dig into a few of your songs to see how we can make them stronger, answer questions, whatever.  If you’re interested, just click on the image below or go to the “STEP THREE” tab at manvsrow.com.  Thanks!

-Brent

1-to-1 Coaching

 

Hurt Like A Man: Luke Bryan & “Drink A Beer”

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

In today’s country market, male artists generally don’t like to be seen as weak, vulnerable, or too sensitive- it doesn’t fit their brand (for more on this, CLICK HERE).  This in in contrast to country music of the 1990’s when artists like Colin Raye, Doug Stone, Vince Gill, and others were often very vulnerable.  So, for today’s market, how do you write a song about a guy that is heartbroken about the loss of his friend?

You make him hurt like a man.

Written by Chris Stapleton and Jim Beavers, “Drink A Beer” is undeniably manly.  Sure, the singer is hurting and heartbroken, but he keeps it locked up inside.  No tears are shed (at least not that he says), and he doesn’t call his mom to talk about it for hours.  No, he goes for a walk alone and ends up drinking a beer in memory of his friend.

Not that real men don’t cry- “I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice is a great example of this.  But even when that manly singer sheds a tear, it is balanced by knowing his brother would punch him in the arm for it.

God Bless,

Brent

YOU VS…

Anything you’d like to add or ask?  Leave a comment!  Also, are there any topics  you’d like to see addressed in a future MvR post?  Thanks!

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Brent’s Twitter: @Razorbaxter

Brent Baxter Music:  http://www.brentbaxtermusic.com

Luke Bryan and Aaron Goodvin

My buddy, Aaron Goodvin, just landed his first song on a major album, “Out Like That” on Luke Bryan’s new album.  You know what this means?  It means new writers can still get a major cut.  It means smart, talented, hardworking young writers still have a chance.  It means you should feel pretty darn inspired right about now.

www.aarongoodvin.com

-Brent

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Twitter: @Razorbaxter

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The Band Is A Brand. Are You Brand Conscious?

This is the part of songwriting I didn’t know I was signing up for- the business, strategic side of things. Sure, I have my MBA, but I really just wanted to write my songs and have them pitched by somebody to somebody and- whammo! Cuts. But the world is how it is, not how I wish it were. So now I think about artists as brands and try to act accordingly.

An artist is a brand, and they and their team (label, promotion, management) work really hard to position their brand (artist) into a certain place in the market. In business terms, they want to increase their market share- on radio and in our wallets. Everything supports the brand image: album artwork and photos, songs, videos, etc.

Artists are looking for songs that fit their brand.

Whether you are writing FOR or WITH a certain artist, it’s important for you to understand their brand. Ask yourself: who is their audience- who do they speak to? What message do they send to their fans? How do they deliver this message? How do they want to be perceived? This goes deeper than just “traditional country” or “pop country.”

If you can write a song that really fits an artist’s brand, you have a great opportunity. Think about “Real Good Man” for Tim McGraw. What a great song for him. Musically, it fits him well. Great feel, and Tim can sing it. Lyrically, that’s totally his persona- a real bad boy, but a real good man.

The artist is Coke. Their songs are Coke Classic, Cherry Coke, Coke Zero, Diet Coke, etc. They want songs that both reinforce and expand their brand. They may want Cherry Vanilla Coke or Raspberry Coke or something. Your song needs to fit on the same shelf. Your song may be the best $200 bottle of wine to be found, but it doesn’t matter. That artist is Coke.

Taco Bell doesn’t sell hamburgers.

My buddy, Tim Meitzen, told me one time, “They only have about three ingredients, but they keep putting them in different shapes!” That’s how some artists are. They keep giving you the same basic ingredients, but they put a little different spin on them. And when they do add something new, say, a Dorito as a taco shell, it still makes sense for the brand.

Luke Bryan is married with children. (So was Al Bundy, but that’s a different topic altogether.) Anyway, Luke has a family, but you wouldn’t know it from listening to his music. His music presents him as a Spring Breakin’ tailgatin’ good ‘ol party-boy who loves the ladies. I believe there’s only one song in which he has a wife and kids. But that was on his first album before he really found his image/voice/brand. And it wasn’t a single. Since he found his image, he has really stuck to it. And who can blame him? It’s working great.

It’s not about what you think an artist should sing or who they should be

… or where you think they should go as an artist. Unless you’re in their circle of influence, it doesn’t really matter what you want. Sorry.

I ran into a branding issue with Lady Antebellum.

Back before Lady A existed, I wrote a song with Hillary Scott, Casey Koesel, and Jon Armstrong called, “A Woman Scorned.” It’s a fun, rocking, fairly aggressive song that shows off Hillary’s vocals really well. Later, when she, Charles, and Dave formed Lady Antebellum, they started playing our song in all their shows (it’s on YouTube). They even cut it for their debut album. Score! Right? Wrong. When it came time to deciding which last couple of songs wouldn’t make the record, “A Woman Scorned” was reduced to a bonus track. That was disappointment with zeroes on the end of it. But after hearing their album, I understood why. It didn’t fit their brand. It was too aggressive. Even though the song had served them well and helped them get their deal, it didn’t fit the image. I couldn’t argue with that.

The lyric and melody BOTH have to work for the artist.

I’ve mainly focused on lyrical content, but the music has to fit the artist’s brand, too. Miranda Lambert isn’t likely to cut a song that sounds like Shania Twain no matter how well the lyric fits her. Ask yourself: is this song the right kind of pop? The right shade of country?

And it’s important to remember that these brands change over time. They aren’t locked in forever. Lonestar was one thing before “Amazed,” and another thing after. Toby Keith was one thing before “How Do You Like Me Now” and another thing after. Kenny Chesney had a slower, but no less important transition to beaches and nostalgia. So don’t lock a brand in your mind with super glue. Make sure to look for the shifts that are inevitable.

Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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YOU VS…

Pick a current artist from whatever genre you target with your writing. Break down their brand. Then be a sweetheart and post your notes in the comments. Together, ya’ll can really help each other out. Thanks!

SHOUT OUT…

Thanks to Chelsea Bain for recording my song, “Simple Is Hard.” It’s on her new album, “All American Country Girl.” You can hear her music being blasted off a stage at a NASCAR event or on Fox Sports. You can check out the song on iTunes here. Thanks, Chelsea!