Music – What Makes Some Songs Hits and Others Ordinary?

Growing up as a child who loved music I was amazed by the fact that no matter what happened there were always new songs playing on the radio. Some exciting and some boring. Some would go straight to number one on the charts and stay there for weeks and everyone wanted to have that record in their collection, whilst other songs were soon forgotten. I began to quiz and question why it is like that. Is it the architecture of the song or the financing behind it? Is it the brilliance of the singer or something else?

I came up with ten things that go into a song that will become a hit.

1. It is usually simple but with a good hook to it that you will not forget. I often find that hit songs are sometimes songs that little children can catch and sing along to.
2. It doesn’t matter how good the natural talent of the singer is, if he or she doesn’t get directed and produced properly, they will become ordinary. A good producer takes the raw talent and music and adds his touch to it and you have better music. There are producers who are known as hit makers because they have the flair that produces a hit song
3. The band must play skillfully and creatively in order to bring out the best arrangement that is pleasing to the ear.
4. Money and resources. Does money make the world go round? It plays its part in making the world go round and it enables talent to find expression. One of the biggest costs in the music industry is the promotional cost, the staging of live events, launches, and buying media space to promote the product, that is the music. Most good artists who do not make it to the top do not do so because they are underfunded. On their team they need to have a strong fundraiser who knows how to marshal resources on behalf of the musician
5.You do not know everything and being open to suggestions from others who may have travelled that path before will save you a lot of time and trouble and years in obscurity
6. You must be sure that you love what you are doing, have the talent for it and you are organized enough to succeed. Success is not about luck, neither does it come by accident. You can plan the success of your next project.
7.. Your song will be a hit if you have tested the market, understood its tastes and preferences and you produce a sound that satisfies that palate.
8. Media contributes to success in the music in a big way. You need to network, create relationships and ensure that your music is where it is supposed to be. Create good rapport with radio and television stations, get interviews and be seen in a positive light by members of the public who buy the music and provide listenership
9. You cannot make music to satisfy everyone. Be deliberate about your genre, the issues you tackle in your music, if it’s done excellently according ton what the listeners want, it will be popular
10. Music as an expression of one’s passion does wonders because there’s no pressure to conform to what has previously been accepted or acceptable. You might be holding onto a music idea that is a breakthrough in your career.

How iPod and iTunes Have Forever Changed the Music Industry – A Musician’s Perspective

In college, I once took a course – “Music and Society”. One of the things we discussed in the class was the iPod and its effects on how we listened to music, and how it influenced artists. Now, this was back in 2006 when iPod wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as it is today (though by all notions, it was already massively popular enough to warrant such a class). In the past 5 years, Apple has not only added to the iPod’s millions of fans, but also invented the iPhone and the iPod Touch.

The iPod, as any purist will tell you, is bad for music. For one, the idea of buying single tracks instead of albums distils the sense of continuity and overall thematic concepts that tie an album together. An album like The Who’s ‘Tommy’ would never work in the age of the iPod. Listening to individual tracks from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” seems to be an exercise in futility since the entire effect of the album is lost when the tracks are played in isolation. What the iPod has managed to do is create ‘one track artists’ who thrive on singles. Lady Gaga wouldn’t be Lady Gaga without the iPod. Neither would someone like Weird Al Yankovic sell millions of individual tracks.

Further, the iPod has changed the way musicians go about creating music. While Pink Floyd sat down with a vision of a complete, thematically coherent album, modern day artists think more in terms of individual tracks. It doesn’t matter if the tracks in the album flow into each other. After all, the songs will be heard in isolation, individually. Whatever efforts you might take to create a thematic structure will be lost, so why even try?

From a musician’s perspective, is it a good thing? Perhaps. It makes for easier song writing. It means you can create one awesome song and hope to cash in. It means you no longer need to release entire albums. Rather, you can go about on a track by track basis – release one track as soon it is perfected, cash in, use that money to party and fund your next track.

But at the same time, it means that musicians who want to experiment, branch out, and incorporate sounds and instruments that they can’t possibly fit into one track will feel a little lost. Musicians with strong lyrics who pride in spinning stories around their tracks would feel irrevocably lost, since an individual track can only afford a limited canvas to paint their images on. Guitarists who want to explore a certain sound may feel limited by the constraints on time a 4 minute track binds them in. For the dedicated, sincere, experimental musician, the arrival of the iPod means that the purity and storytelling zest of the earlier generation is lost. It also means that we will never have an album like ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ or ‘The Wall’ (both by Pink Floyd) again. ‘The Wall’, for instance, was released with a full length movie based on the tracks. Something like that could never happen in this era of singles.

One very positive development has sprung from the advent of the iPod however which has revolutionized how music is created and listened to. As a musician, it is something I’m immensely ecstatic about: the iTunes music store. The iTunes music store has the potential to completely change the way musicians have traditionally created music. How? Allow me to explain:

Traditionally, as an artist, you went on stage, performed your songs, built up a fan base, toured, and if you were lucky, talented, and had that little ‘X’ factor, you would be spotted by some talent scout. Before long, you would be produced before a record company executive, who would wave a heavily biased (in the company’s favor) contract before you. As a broke artist hungry for mainstream success, you would, of course, take whatever they would throw at you, perhaps remembering how even the Beatles had to contend with getting paid just 1 cent for every record sold (and that 1 cent was split among the four of them).

Over time, as your clout on the music industry increased, you could negotiate your contract and get the company to agree to more favorable terms that granted you more artistic freedom and monetary rewards. Madonna in the 1980s, for instance, could get the record company to agree to whatever terms she wanted. Nirvana could walk out of any contract and dictate terms to the company. That’s how things were always done for decades: the young artist got screwed, worked hard, came up the ranks and finally became big enough to work according to his own rules.

Now in walked the iPod and the iTunes store. Within a decade, the iPod would go on to become almost as common as, well, a mobile phone. Everyone I know owns an iPod/iPhone/iPod Touch. All of them have access to the iTunes store where they can purchase any track they want with a single touch. Billions of tracks are downloaded from the iTunes store every year and Apple generates a significant portion of its revenues from it.

What the iTunes, in conjunction with the iPod/iPhone has managed to do is create an army of consumers who can discover and purchase any track they want within seconds. For the artist, it means that they entire discovery, supply, distribution side of the business that was typically controlled by record companies is democratized. The artist doesn’t need to create physical CDs. Nor does he need to worry about marketing blitzes, supplying the CDs to stores, negotiating prices, etc. Any artist, be it Kanye West or the neighborhood band, could put up his tracks online for sale. And here’s the best part: you may be Jay-Z, but the finest track from your latest album will sell for the same price as that wedding band from New Jersey: $0.99.

This means that an artist can today afford to release a track, sell thousands of copies, make a nice little bundle of money, then hit the road, perform in a few pubs, record another song, put it up on iTunes, sell another 50,000 copies, and repeat the process endlessly. It means that you can finally make music as a freelancer: releasing tracks as and when they are completed and using the money earned from each track to fund further tracks. When you have 8-10 decent songs, you could perhaps release them together as an album. Think of it as the patronage system under which writers and artists flourished in the 16th century, but only instead of feudal lords and ladies, you patrons would be ordinary fans.

Of course, this is still a rather utopian idea. Only an already popular band with millions of existing fans can get away with such an approach. Radiohead can afford to do this, and so can U2. But the local indie band probably won’t build up enough buzz to sell thousands of singles, no matter how good they might be. It isn’t difficult to foresee though, that 10-15 years down the line, no one would need record companies, and unknown bands could break through and make a tidy sum through a handful of songs. Will it be enough to buy private jets, ballrooms filled with champagne, fast Italian cars, and live life like a rock star? Probably not. But will it be enough to fund great music? Definitely yes.

The future of the music industry looks bright. All thanks to the iPod.

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