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Can you Produce a "Hit Song" ?
Old 4th June 2006
  #1
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Can you Produce a "Hit Song" ?

I just came back from a big songwriter's workshop and the big topic of the day was " Can you take an average/decent song and produce it into a hit" ?

The camp was very divided with some heated discussion. I for one think that "YES YOU CAN" take an ok song with ok lyrics and turn it into a Billboard Hit. Simply because I hear that every single day on my local Pop station.

Some of these songs are completely average in their structure and lyrics, still a lot of them are on the Top 40 charts...and the songwriters are laughing all the way to the bank. This certainly proved my point I thought...

But, many people seem to think that for a song to make it, it has to be great to begin with. I definitely don't agree with this so I want to hear from you guys...

What are your thoughts on this matter ?

Is a hit song a hit because it is great in every way or can you take an ok song and produce it into a hit song ?
Old 4th June 2006
  #2
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Quote:
Is a hit song a hit because it is great in every way or can you take an ok song and produce it into a hit song ?
None of the above. Production can make a "not great" performance sound good, but to make a pedestrian song a hit, it takes marketing. With the proper marketing you can shove almost anything down someones throat and make them think they like it - or that it's good. You can make people feel insecure in their tastes and make them "try hard" to like something if your smart.
Old 4th June 2006
  #3
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kenkelly81's Avatar
 

I believe if you apply enough pressure to a lump of coal it will become a diamond.

KC
Old 4th June 2006
  #4
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cramseur's Avatar
Just remember "The Macarena", "who let the dogs out", "I'm too sexy" and the countless other songs that were catchy but otherwise mediocre. The production...nothing special. but the marketing, ahh... those songs were everywhere! Coal into diamonds, indeed.
Old 4th June 2006
  #5
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Kestral's Avatar
 

A friend of mine was working with an artist who also did some tracks with The Matrix (the production team that did all those big Avril Lavigne singles).

Anyways, he played me some of the Matrix tracks that she had done with them and asked me what I thought. I said holy ----, that sounds really f'ing good! To which he replied, yes it does but the song is a piece of sh--. And he was right, the production was textbook radio friendly pop hit but the song itself was crap.

I learned that day that you can to a large degree polish a turd.
Old 4th June 2006
  #6
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Tibbon's Avatar
if I could, then I would, so I could make lots of money, and then go back to making non-hit music that I actually like. But apparently I can't, or I would have done that already.

Well, maybe I can if I just buy one more piece of equipment.... and then another... and then....
Old 4th June 2006
  #7
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M.S.P.'s Avatar
Id like to think that a little creativity in the production could help a mediocre song along. Is there a lot of creativity currently in the main stream on the song writing side or the production side? Not really, but Id like to think its still possible.
Old 4th June 2006
  #8
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My point exactly...

Aside from working on my own material, I also work with other writers/artists. I know in my mind I can polish a turd or produce the **** out of an otherwise **** song. I do it all the time.

Sometimes I'll take a so-so song with only vocals and acoustic and show it to one of the Publishers I work with who advocates that "he can always tell a hit song". He rarely likes it in it's rare form. Then a few weeks later, I will bring him the "full blown produced version" sometimes with another title to throw him off and he will almost like it much better...he will go from - I don't think this is the one - to - I think we might have something here - What gives ?

I have done this with many songs in the past few years with people who say they can hear a "hit song" when they hear it. Mind you, I know good songs when I hear one, but the point is that if you take an average song and give it "The Treatment" you can certainly turn it into something...
Old 4th June 2006
  #9
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

you can´t make a hit song out of a mediocre song with production, and you cant shove anything people don´t like no matter how much publicity you use.
Old 4th June 2006
  #10
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dreamsongs's Avatar
 

Do you listen to the radio ??????????????????????????
Old 4th June 2006
  #11
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dreamsongs
I have done this with many songs in the past few years with people who say they can hear a "hit song" when they hear it. Mind you, I know good songs when I hear one, but the point is that if you take an average song and give it "The Treatment" you can certainly turn it into something...
could you post a before and after example ?? and billboard proof of how much of a hit it turned into ? because i don´t believe you.
Old 4th June 2006
  #12
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dreamsongs
Do you listen to the radio ??????????????????????????
all the time, and i watch mtv/vh1 for hours every day.

I don´t like rap though, I can only talk about pop or rock. Even though I can tell you why 50cent or eminem are huge acts that are staying up there for a long time. I´m not talking about flavor of the week bands, i´m talking about hits that stayed in the charts for some time.
Old 4th June 2006
  #13
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How the hell do you want me to get my hands on a demo/raw version of a song that turned out to be a hit ?

I don't personally have a Billboard hit but I am sure hundreds of guys on this forum can give you examples of a hundred or more mediocre songs that have made it to radio starting from 1970 on...

You can't deny that can you....? Or, do you really believe that every single song on pop radio is a masterpiece...give me a break will you !!!!
Old 4th June 2006
  #14
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dreamsongs
How the hell do you want me to get my hands on a demo/raw version of a song that turned out to be a hit ?

I don't personally have a Billboard hit but I am sure hundreds of guys on this forum can give you examples of a hundred or more mediocre songs that have made it to radio starting from 1970 on...

You can't deny that can you....? Or, do you really believe that every single song on pop radio is a masterpiece...give me a break will you !!!!
haha see, if it only took a mediocre song to be a hit we would all have billboard success don´t you think ???

I never said all top hits are masterpieces, I said every hit song has hit elements in their melody/beat/lyrics and most importantly a good structure. Aka, psycoligically have the necesary elements to move crowds.

You said , you turned mediocre songs ¨into something¨, i thought you were talking about hits.

Masterpieces are one thing, HITS are a whole different animal. The idea is to create a masterpeace that becomes a hit. I think the Beatles wrote all of those allready.
Old 4th June 2006
  #15
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belairstudio's Avatar
 

It depends on what you think is "mediocre"

If mediocre is: damn easy, not necessarily skilled in something, well packed and marketed, sure this kind of song CAN be a hit



But it needs the IDEA. Nothing sells a song but a STRONG IDEA. All the rest is circumstances and craftmanship



It can be an idea in many ways (lyrics, melody, hook, or better all of these)
Old 4th June 2006
  #16
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by belairstudio
It depends on what you think is "mediocre"

If mediocre is: damn easy, not necessarily skilled in something, well packed and marketed, sure this kind of song CAN be a hit



But it needs the IDEA. Nothing sells a song but a STRONG IDEA. All the rest is circumstances and craftmanship



It can be an idea in many ways (lyrics, melody, hook, or better all of these)
how can something be easy and include all of those great ¨ideas¨ you talk about ?
Old 4th June 2006
  #17
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dussel's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by belairstudio
But it needs the IDEA. Nothing sells a song but a STRONG IDEA. All the rest is circumstances and craftmanship
needless to say that you can take an idea that someone else turned into a hit before and present it in a new way.

Dussel
Old 4th June 2006
  #18
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You have to take yourself out of the "industry" point of view to understand I think.

The songs on the radio make me want to puke most of the time. But I'll be damned if I don't run into non-musician types every day who love the crap. It's not that a crappy song is dressed up by production to trick people into thinking it's good, or that marketing forces it down people's throat. The songs that are hits are actually what average people want to hear. It's sad, but that's just the way it goes now a dayz. In the 70's the industry was run by the insiders. Producers, musicians, and people who were really into great music. But THEY force fed good music onto people. Now it's more market driven and the people who actually like good music are no longer in control. So it's governed completely by demand. Unfortunately Americans demand mediocre crap.
Old 4th June 2006
  #19
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Quote:
and you cant shove anything people don´t like no matter how much publicity you use.
You don't get it. A strategically marketed product can twist people into liking it. That's when you shove it down their throat heh

It's called packaging. All the elements must be in place, and if you get it right you'll hit an emotional chord that will drive sales. It's not just music, it's everything.

Take pick-up trucks or SUV's. In the US they're marketed as "rugged", a "man's truck" with songs playing in the background such as "Like a Rock" etc. The marketer is creating an image. The target imagines himself as "that kind of person" - it's strikes an emotional chord within him. It's usually a person who has nothing to do with "ruggedness" and has no need for a 4X4. Then all of a sudden you have all these "suits" driving 4X4's down Wall St. heh

In music it's simple. Usually, the emotional chords they pull are "cool", "rebellious" or "anti-establisment", and "sexy". All the packaging is gear to towards that one emotional button.

A little older and they target the "intellectual" or "sofisto" wannabees. It's a fricken science. Young people listen to certain styles of music to define themselves - the same way they wear certain cloths and drive certain cars. The marketer attaches an emotional trigger tto the product depending on who their target is.
Old 4th June 2006
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jose Mrochek
how can something be easy and include all of those great ¨ideas¨ you talk about ?

A strong Idea is always damn easy


"diamonds are a girl's best friend" is a strong idea, damn easy

"I just called to say I love you"

"Everybody's changing and I don't feel the same"

"wake up on a saturday night"

"Get my kicks on route 66"

"I did it my way"

Put those words and music together and you have Hits
Old 4th June 2006
  #21
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Hit songs are strange things. Alot of things have to be just right in order for them to become big hits, most of all, people have to want to hear it more than one time. Some songs become addicting and people need their "fix." (Betty Davis Eyes)

Some songs have just basic production, but still become hits (Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer)

Some artists just put together a cd and hope for the best, not knowing what the future will bring, and things just take off.....(Nelly Furtado)

A "hit" song only really has to be liked by 1 or 2 % of the general population to become a hit. The population of the U.S. is 270 million, when was the last time any song was liked by everybody and sold 270 million copies ?? This means that the majority of people won't like your song, no matter what you do. (Even Micheal Jackson has fans and non-fans)It's all a matter of accounting and how the numbers are presented. You always hear things like, "This song sold blah blah blah number of copies", you never hear, "269 million people did not buy this record".
Old 4th June 2006
  #22
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kats
You don't get it. A strategically marketed product can twist people into liking it. That's when you shove it down their throat heh

.
Like I said earlier, I listen to radio all the time, and watch MTV for hours everyday. How many records I bought this year ?? umm 2 I think. And no, i don´t download free music either.

So nobody is going to make me like something I don´t, to the extent of putting some money into it.

And not to even mention the huge flops big record companys have all the time.

About your ¨like a rock¨ analogy, same thing.. I never bought or have any plans to buy a chevy truck. Something either appeals to me or it doesn´t. Pure and simple, the only thing marketing does (which is very important) , is that people are massively aware of the existence of that product. It does not guarantee success in any way.
Old 4th June 2006
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jose Mrochek
could you post a before and after example ?? and billboard proof of how much of a hit it turned into ? because i don´t believe you.
Does he get a "Get Out of Jail Free" if he produces a Full Sail diploma? heh
Old 4th June 2006
  #24
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kestral
Does he get a "Get Out of Jail Free" if he produces a Full Sail diploma? heh
jasdfklasdfkladf : )
Old 4th June 2006
  #25
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i've worked many years in marketing and advertising, and i tell you what,
you can sell EVERYTHING (with money).

if the product is good or valuable, then it's easier/cheaper.
nothing more, nothing less.

what's sad is that nowadays there's just well marketed crap out there. No time and money to deal with talented musicians' egos. Pick a stupid pretty face, feed it with fancy dresses and european cars, hire a CLA type of mixer, and go milk your cow for as long as you can. Then move to a new stupid pretty face.

the music industry is dead. just like the studios.
does walmart sell mboxes?
Old 4th June 2006
  #26
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Marketing can be magic.

Whether you choose to believe it or not you can make people buy things they wouldn't under "normal" circumstances.

Just ask Clear Channel.

Most musicians, singers, songwriters have a difficult time removing there talent/experience from the equation when judging the merits of a song and production of said song.
Producers, A&R guys and rec executives seam to have a little less trouble with it as long as they don't have musical talent.

I know what blaspheme

We as a musicians, singers, songwriters will never be able to truly understand the power that marketing can have for a bad song until you learn to separate yourself from our preconceived notion of what is good and bad when it comes to music.

I really believe it is close to impossible for most. We will almost always hear through a set ears that are tainted by our musical training and experiences.

It can't be helped.

If you can somehow remove these biases from your mind you can get a glimpse into the mind of the masses.

Until you reach this point Grass Hopper you really know not of what you speak.

Please don't be feel insulted. This is just my opinion. Take for what is worth.

KC
Old 4th June 2006
  #27
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To make it clear...

I never used the word "mediocre" in my original post. I said an ok/average/kinda-likable song...

The are thousands of those songs around and if you know the right people and happen to know a bitchin'/hit making producer, he could potentially turn that particular song into a hit.

I also agree that the song has to have the basic elements to even have a chance, like a catchy hook and/or melody.

I pitch songs every week to publishers, producers, managers, A & R etc. A lot of this is subjective and that is probably the heart of the problem. I've had some of the abovementioned people love a particular song and 2 days letter another person will tell me it doesn't do anything for them...

One thing I found out for sure is, the song has a much better chance if it's well recorded and well produced. The same song in it's raw form wouldn't stand a chance.

Having said that, I have a beautiful ballad with killer lyrics that I'm working on this week that I will keep to just piano/guitar and vocals. Mainly to bring out the focus on the lyrics, no ear candy on this one...

I stand on what I said earlier, there are hundreds of songs that if you played the chords on your guitar alone, you would've never imagined they would be hits. Too many to mention, you all know a few I'm sure.

This is mainly in Pop/Rock more than any other genre. These days I'll include R&B as well.

For most cuts, take away the marketing, the big producer and the great production and you have very little ...
Old 4th June 2006
  #28
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kenkelly81

If you can somehow remove from these biases from your mind you can get a glimpse into the mind of the masses.
Since when are we not part of the masses ?

Since when are we musicians or producers, better music critics than a truck driver or banker ?
Old 4th June 2006
  #29
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It's like we as musicians are touched with a disease that renders our ability to hear like the rest of the non-music making world=masses null and viod.

You can't really and most likely never will.

KC
Old 4th June 2006
  #30
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Jose Mrochek's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dreamsongs

One thing I found out for sure is, the song has a much better chance if it's well recorded and well produced. The same song in it's raw form wouldn't stand a chance.

Well recorded yes, absolutely. A good recording is very important, and a great mix to.

the song ¨happy birthday to you¨ we all sing at birthdays is a huge hit, and doesn´t contain any production at all. So no. I don´t agree as far as production helping in the hit department. A great song will be a hit with just a guitar and vocal. Period. I hope Paul McCartney or John Lennon could chime in to discuss this.

What production does, is to only enhance the mood or direction a song takes. Makes it more interesting on the long run. That´s the problem with todays top 40. Production has never been so complex (thanks to DAW´s) yet the raw songs don´t personaly do it for me, compared to the hits of the past which I listen to with greater pleasure.
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