If you’ve been making music for a while by now, you probably already know how to write a song. If not, you’ll want to check this beginners guide to songwriting before you go any further.
Now I’ve a question for you: Does the kind of songs you’ve been writing match the aims you have for your music career?
Depending on what you hope to achieve, the way you write and structure your songs should take a certain path. For example, if you’re a rapper who wants to appeal to the underground rap scene, your lyrics and beats will need to be different then the ones you’d use if you was aiming to create a more commercial pop song. Most likely your lyrics would need to either be very technical or witty, the song wouldn’t necessarily need a chorus, and you’d need to have a simplistic or thumping beat to spit over. As a broad example.
If however you’re a rapper who’s aiming to release a song into the charts (with the aim of doing well of course), the type of song you’ll need to write would be very different. Instead of your lyrics being too technical, you’ll most likely want them to be easy to understand. You may still want them to be witty, but in a different way. You’ll definitely want there to be a chorus in there, but you may want a singer to do it instead of you. And the backing track will likely be a lot more ‘commercial’ in nature.
While this is just a brief overview of some changes you may want to make depending on the aims you have as a musician, hopefully it shows that different paths you may take will require you to take different actions.
For the rest of this article, we’ll mainly be talking about how to write songs that could potentially do well commercially. It’d be impossible for me to go into all the needed things you should be implementing to write successful songs in all genres and non commercial scenes, at least in this one blog post. That said, as the formula for writing a commercial song is quite similar no matter what type of music you make (not exactly the same, but there are things which work well across the board), we’ll focus on this. Ok, so let’s get into it! Important Note: Even if you write songs which could potentially do well if they entered into the charts, that won’t mean your song will get released and end up charting. You will of course need to mass promote your music, either independently or though a record label. This guide won’t cover that side of things, although I’ll point you in the direction of some marketing related resources at the end.
How To Write A Song With The Aim For It Going Commercial
So let’s start looking at some of the things you’ll probably want to implement if you’re aiming to create a popular chart song. While there are of course exceptions to the rules and musicians who have done well commercially without following these strategies, if you’re new to the charts and want to increase your chances of doing well, you’ll probably want to implement them:
1. Your Song Chorus Will Have To Be Catchy
This is probably one of the biggest factors you’ll need to learn when it comes to writing a popular song. If you want to give your song the best chance of climbing up the charts, you’ll need to write a catchy chorus.
The reason for this is simple; you’ll want it to stay in people’s heads. You want people to hear your song through once, and even if they’re not fully paying attention, have that chorus go over in their head for the rest of the day. That is the power of a strong and catch chorus.
But how does this help you? Well not only will it help you in terms of having more people singing and talking about your songs, it also does two other important things:
Makes your music more appealing to a younger audience.
While it varies from genre to genre, the younger audience (think school kids under 12 years of age) are a market you’ll want to be targeting. Young kids love catchy songs, and are very good at getting their parents to go out and buy these songs for them.
If you can get these songs sung throughout schools up and down the country, you have a good chance of making more sales and climbing the charts.
Increases the chances your song will be used for other uses
If you can write a very catchy chorus which takes off well and has ‘everyone’ singing it, your song will automatically become more attractive to big budget companies with a product to sell. They may want to license your song for use in their latest commercial, website, TV program or computer game. If this happens, the amount of money you make from this song will be a lot more than you would have made from chart based sales alone. You can see more about music licensing here.
While some would disagree, I’d go as far as saying having a catchy chorus is the biggest factor you need to get right when writing a pop song, no matter if it’s ‘rock pop’, ‘rap pop’ or other. You’re a lot more likely to find songs which do well commercially with a strong chorus and just above average verses, than you are to find a song with a just above average chorus and really good verses. You should be aiming to make all of your song top quality of course though.
I doubt you’ll find anyone knowledgeable about the music industry who would say catchy choruses don’t increase your chances of creating a hit pop song, so be sure to spend time making sure yours is just right!
2. You Should Try And Write In Some Memorable / Sing-Along Parts
As well as writing a powerful and catchy chorus, you should also aim to include additional catchy parts within your verses that people will easily remember and sing along to every time it comes up.
I know you’ve been in this situation before: you and someone you know are listening to a song. Nether of you know many of the words, but when it comes to a specific line, you both suddenly start singing that line. This is because it’s catchy, it’s easy to remember, and fun to sing along to! That’s the kind of line you want to include when writing your songs…
One of the best ways to make a line or two of yours more memorable is by making it stand out from the rest of your lyrics. So you may have written your lyrics to all be at a similar speed, then suddenly slow it down or change it up in some way so people’s ears instantly pick up when that part comes on.
Another way you can do this is by changing up the flow of the stand out line, and saying something that is also stand out. This can be in the form of you saying something cheeky, or by you making a powerful statement which sums up the whole song.
If people can relate to the line, even better. Which leads me onto the next factor which you should be implementing in your lyric writing:
3. You’ll Need To Write A Song With Lyrics People Can Relate To Or Envy
Next up, let’s look at the type of song subject you should be going for. While a wide range of song subject can do well commercially, whichever subject you pick should usually fall into one of two categories:
- Lyrics about something people of your target market can relate to, or
- Lyrics which people in your target audience can aspire to.
Let’s look at option number one first; you’ll want to write lyrics which talk about things which people can relate to. This could be because they have been through similar things themselves, or could imagine themselves feeling the same if they were in a similar situation.
This is an extremely powerful song type to write. If you’re writing from your own personal experience, than chances are there are a lot of other people who have felt the same before, and will more likely be interested in what you have to say. When people can relate a song to them, they’re more likely to remember that song, or more importantly buy it. A song about how you feel after you’ve just come out of a roller coaster relationship for example, that’s something a lot of people could relate to.
But what if you want to write a song about something which only a small percentage of your target audience have experienced? Well, if that subject is something that people in your genre generally aspire to, than this could be ok.
An example of this is the talk of money. Some musicians who start making a lot of money often talk about their new found riches, and make that the subject of many of their songs. And while a lot of their audience maybe can’t personally relate to living the same lifestyle, they may want to eventually live that life, so listen to and buy these songs for motivation.
Again, while there are exceptions to these rules, if you want the best chance of writing a good popular song, you’ll want your lyrics to fit into one of the above two categories.
4. You’ll Need A High Quality Backing Track
The last main point I want to make about writing a song which has the chance to be received well commercially, is about the backing track you use to put your lyrics on.
While the kind of instrumental you use will depend on your genre of music, I will say this:
You want your backing track to be high quality!
There’s nothing worse than having a song with great lyrics, but a poor quality instrumental. It’s such a let down, and one that will show in terms of your sales figures.
If you’ve taken the time to write a high quality song, be sure to also get a beat that will match that song, both in terms of theme and quality. Doing any less will lessen your chances of climbing higher in the charts.
How To Write A Pop Song Conclusion
So there you have it, some of the main things you need to implement when writing lyrics for a tune you want to do well in the charts. These are by no means the only things you need to bare in mind when writing lyrics for a commercial song, but they are among some of the most important. Feel free to let us know your thoughts of important factors in the comments section.
Before I go, I want to remind you that writing a top song alone won’t be the only thing you need to do to enter and do well in the charts. If you don’t properly market that song, either independently if you have the budget or thought a record label, you will have no chance of making your song chart.
So if you want to learn key skills to marketing your songs, you’ll want to read up on how to market your music properly. I’ve written a big guide on promoting your music here, as well as a guide on what to do after you’ve recorded a single. You should check out both as well as the other guides on Music Industry How To for help on promoting any songs you write.
I hope this guide has been useful for you, if it has please share it around. Thank you.