When starting out as a songwriter, chances are good that you wrote strictly for yourself. You were still learning your craft, and these first efforts may not have been ready to show to others (or at least not others within the music industry). But once you’ve gained confidence in your skills, who your target listener is may change, especially if your goal is to make a living from your writing. Here’s a look at who you may need to consider when you write a song -- and it may change your writing more (or less) than you expect.
Before you worry about appealing to other people, it’s important to master your craft -- but that doesn’t mean you should forget your own value as a listener, a critic, and a music lover. Whatever you write should reflect at least some of your personal preferences and your unique perspective, as writing exclusively with an eye to the pop charts or a television show is likely to result in a song that feels impersonal and flat. Remember that, whatever you write, you are the first “customer” who should be pleased.
For Your Fans.
Lots of bands will have a breakout album or song, then fade from view because new material was either too different to appeal to their fan base or too similar to everything that had seemed so new and fresh before. Lots of songwriters can get caught up worrying about what their fans will like -- or reject what made them successful to follow new directions. It’s best to write songs that are still true to your passions, but keep in mind that you’re asking followers to come along with you on whatever new direction you’re taking. Thinking about your fans isn’t a bad thing, but that concern shouldn’t blot out what you really want to write about, either. Chances are your fans are excited about your unique point of view.
Music supervisors are always looking for songs to use in television and films that have a fresh sound, so sticking to your unique POV is an asset -- but there are minor things to keep in mind. Mentioning the time of year or the weather in your song can make it the wrong choice to be used in a particular scene or as a television show theme, for example. Defining a particular gender (male or female) in the song can limit its use, and inappropriate language can quickly land your song in the reject pile. While these are important issues to keep in mind, you’ll likely find they’re small changes to make.
What Should You Write Next?
If you’re wondering whether you should write songs for television shows, movies, your fans, or other listeners, chances are the easiest thing to keep in mind is to write songs that you like. It’s impossible to know exactly what music supervisors are looking for or what your fans will want to hear on your next release. What has made you a working songwriter is you -- your perspective, your voice, and your unique take on music. While peppering a song with four-letter words is pretty much assured to keep it from network television, there are few other rules in modern music. So, write for yourself, edit for others, and, most importantly, keep writing.