A Modern Songwriting Parable

by Marty Dodson
Aug 28, 2015

So, let’s say I invent a new kitchen gadget and I really want to get Walmart to stock my gadget on their shelves. Why do I want Walmart to stock it? Duh? They have millions of customers. If I want to make lots of money with my product, I HAVE to get Walmart to sell it.

So, trying to be a good businessman, I head out to the local Walmart to spy on the competition. I put on my sunglasses, dress in flip-flops like Clay Mills, and pull my hat down low over my eyes. I saunter casually to the kitchen section and start snooping around. I discover that there are already two products on the shelves that are very similar to mine. And they are priced LOW. $9.99. I was hoping to price mine at $14.99. I write down all the specs on the products that would compete with mine. I go back to my laboratory (garage) and get online to do more research on competitors.

I discover that, if I can add a couple of features to my gadget, I could easily price it at $14.99 and beat out the $19.99 average price for products with those features. So, I set out to figure out how to make my product feasible at $14.99 with all of the bells and whistles. One day, I have a “Eureka” moment and I figure it out. I can actually make more money per unit than I originally thought AND give customers the best gadget on the market.

Then, and only then, I head to Walmart to talk to their buyers about stocking my gadget. Now the question. What would have happened if I had just walked in to meet with the buyer with my original gadget priced at $14.99 without the features that made it a bargain at that price? I would have been shown the door.

Moral of the story: Over and over, I see people walk into the offices of the buyers (publishing offices, record labels, song pluggers, etc) before they have done ANY research about the competition. They don’t know the market, they don’t know what is currently working, what artists are wanting, what publishers are needing, or ANYTHING else about the current state of their genre. But, somehow, they imagine that Walmart (Radio) would play their songs if they could just get them to the right people.

If you are trying to write commercial music, you are creating a product. You are trying to sell it to millions of people. You have to know everything you can know about your competition and about what radio is playing currently. The more you know, the better your chances.

Don’t walk in blindly, or you’ll be walking out very quickly with your tail between your legs. Do your homework. Keep writing songs that are aimed at the market and fueled by your knowledge of what is going on in the market right now. THEN, you’ve got a chance.

Marty Dodson

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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