Last week I started talking about 7 truths about songwriting that we can learn from television. If you missed the first part of the post, you can read it here.
Here are more truths:
4. Titles are important!
T.V.: (Schitt’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murder)
Aren’t those interesting titles? Don’t they peak your interest? Does a show with a title of “I Love You” make you want to watch that show? Not me.
SONGS: Our titles have to behave like hooks that pull you right in from the beginning, through the middle and right up to the end.
5. Consumers appreciate good, thoughtful writing.
T.V.: There are some really talented script writers slogging around Hollywood these days. It’s apparent to me in the quality of programming. The dialog is clever, biting, witty and poignant, and it keeps me interested and engaged. But this is why we love our favorite shows. Somehow it makes us feel more human, makes us laugh, makes us cry, makes us feel. That doesn’t come from great acting alone. That comes from great writing.
SONGS: I believe that people are starved for substantive content in songs. So, all the time we spend in learning our craft and finessing our songs will pay off.
5. We’ve got to take risks.
T.V.: The most original content for television these days is coming from new providers like Netflix, Google, Amazon etc. Some of these shows (like Orange is the New Black and Breaking Bad) are really unique and different. The public has had appetite for different kinds of programming but they just haven’t been getting it from the safe networks. Enter the new networks and programming.
SONGS: As songwriters we have to take risks. We have to be willing to say what needs to be said and what is in our hearts. We are the “bell ringers” so we have to be ringing bells. Staying safe will never break any new ground. We shouldn’t be trying to copy; we should be taking our inspiration and writing with our own voices, even though that’s a scary notion.
6. We have to keep listening to new material and stay aware of trends, structures and attitudes.
T.V.: This is a pop culture we live in and television programming is a reflection of our thoughts, ideas and values. If the program is a retro-based show, then all of the props, language, social actions and morets have to be true to those time periods. Otherwise we don’t believe it. Researchers and consultants are hired regularly to give input and help lend a genuineness and credibility over the details.
SONGS: As songwriters we have to stay current. Well that is if we WANT songs recorded by artists, or to HAVE OUR MUSIC BE HEARD in the world. T.V. is a reflection of the times and so is music. If the purpose of writing songs is to communicate thoughts and ideas, then we have to know what people are saying and thinking now. I know of and talk to some older musicians and songwriters who simply refuse to listen to new artists and songwriters because they think the music is not good quality. And they put up somewhat of a resistance to change. But listening is learning, so I believe it’s important to stay open and listen to everything. Because I believe it will inform our music and make us better songwriters.
Keep the themes universal.
(Love, loss, revenge, redemption, hope) There are certain themes that get replayed over and over again. Girl meets boy. Get married. Break-up. Regret. Loss. Family. These themes are central to our experiences as human beings, so everyone is interested in knowing about them. Television is not offering anything really new. It’s all recycled. The only difference is that these themes are packaged up differently. Same for songwriting. Love as a theme is as old as the hills. But saying “I Love You” in a new and fresh way is not. And there should be only one theme going on, no more.