I love a good television show. I also watch a lot because I can find out what kind of music is being used in those shows and then try to get my music in them.
I think there are many similarities between television and songwriting.
So here are the 7 TRUTHS about songwriting we can learn from T.V.
1. We have to tell the story quickly.
TV: In television there is range of 1/2 to 1 hr. per episode to tell a story. Granted, you have many of those blocks of time over the course of a series (say 13 on average), but that’s still not a huge amount of time to introduce characters and develop plot lines.
SONGS: We literally have 3-5 minutes maximum to get our story across period! So, we have to really economize on words. With an average song, we only get about 14 lines to tell a story. That’s it.
2. We have to keep the plot lines moving and engaging.
T.V.: Have you watched How to Get Away With Murder, Homeland or Scandal? These shows are always twisting and turning to keep them interesting. Somebody does something crazy, then somebody else does, then somebody gets killed you didn’t expect. You’re always being surprised and sometimes shocked. Lead actors get killed off pretty regularly now.
SONGS: They are literally 3-4 minute little shows. So, in that very brief period of time we have to draw people in, keep them interested and give them lots of little surprises along the way. This can be done by changing up the melodies, changing up the rhythms, adding layers, subtracting layers, and contrasting the sections of the song. Everything we do should be in the interest of keeping the listener interested. It’s more A.D.D. than ever.
3. We’re fighting for attention in an extremely crowded field.
T.V.: Have a look at some of the promotions for upcoming shows. I can remember the promos for Quantico and Blindspot. They are filled with the most compelling footage coupled with very epic music, all designed to get you to say to yourself “oh I want to watch/DVR/ buy that show”. That’s the whole point of a promo; to get you to tune in. Why? Because are spoiled for choices these days and promos help entice you to watch.
SONGS: We have to get the listener to tune in to our message by creating “ear worms” of lyric and melody. Something that will stick in their heads. If I’ve been writing a song and I can remember the hook line the next day, that’s usually a good sign. If something about the song, like lyric, melody or a production element isn’t compelling, then we won’t be able to hold a person’s interest. These days we only get a couple of moments to draw someone in. I think about the way I listen to songs. I’ll pull up a Spotify playlist and start listening down. If something draws me in, I listen, but if it doesn’t catch my attention immediately, then I just hit the arrow button to get the next song. If you can get people to listen all the way through your song, then you are doing something RIGHT. There are simply too many other choices. Not only for listening to songs, but everything else out there that a person can do with their time.
Check back here next week for #4-7!