Commercial Vs. Creative Music: The Debate Goes On

by Marty Dodson
Nov 5, 2022

One of the big questions we get over and over is whether writing commercial music requires you to sell your soul, abandon creativity, and forsake all that is good in this world. As if there are two sides at war with each other …  Commercial Vs. Creative Music

Any time this debate arises, there are those that say “Well, Jackson Browne did it his own way.

He was poetic AND commercial” or “Bob Dylan didn’t sell out, he wrote whatever he wanted”. It’s curious to me that every example that is ever thrown out to “prove” that you shouldn’t try to be commercial is a person that was commercially successful. No one ever says “I want to be like my neighbor Bob Smith. He writes crazy stuff that no one understands and plays it alone in his garage.”

The people from the past that we try to model our work after were, almost without exception, successful commercial writers.

They wrote what worked in their time. Those that are successful today are doing the same. Is it different from what worked in the past? For sure! Is it better or worse? That’s a matter of opinion.

Our goal here at SongTown is to help you write better songs.

By better songs, we mean songs that connect to your audience. Not necessarily anyone else’s audience. Yours. Whatever that might be. Whether you want to write songs that your family enjoys hearing at family reunions, or you want to write songs that millions of people hear on the radio, it’s all about communication. Unless you plan to be like “Neighbor Bob” and only play your songs for yourself, you need to communicate well. Otherwise, you are just throwing gibberish on paper.

So, the posts we write are not encouraging you to be someone you are not.

We are not trying to get you to give up YOUR thing and chase something else. We just want to help you write better songs. If your goal is to get songs on the radio, that’s great. We’ll try to help with that. If it’s just to write songs you are happy with, we’ll help you do that to the best of your ability. Our musical heroes were commercially successful in some way, or we wouldn’t have discovered their music.

Don’t buy into the idea of having to choose between commercial vs. creative music unless you are willing to accuse your musical idols of the same.

Write on! MD

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson

Marty Dodson is a multi #1 songwriter, co-founder of SongTown, and co-author of  The Songwriter’s Guide To Mastering Cowriting and Song Building: Mastering Lyric Writing


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