by Clay Mills
Apr 30, 2022
One of the hardest things to come to grips with as a songwriter is other peoples opinions on your songs. Here is a story that can help you navigate the waters of song feedback.
I wrote with a writer last week who is actively looking for a publishing deal. He is a super talented writer and was expressing frustration over how two publishers suggested changes on a song he wrote and both gave exact opposite opinions on what his song needed.
One said his chorus music didn’t go anywhere and needed work. The next publisher he played his song for loved the music but thought his title was not strong enough. “I like the song the way it is,” he said to me in total frustration.
Since I mostly co-write songs, I’m used to navigating the opinion waters. So I offered my friend my take on how to handle opinions on his songs and stay true to his own heart.
If a co-writer, publisher, producer, or label person are all giving me feedback that my song is lacking somewhere, then I’ve probably missed the mark on my song.
The specific song feedback of what they personally don’t like about my song is not the bottom line. Of course they want to be helpful and come up with a reason why they aren’t digging the song. But the bottom line is that my song is not getting them excited and hitting the replay button. Remember, an A&R person or publisher often can’t tell me how to fix a song or express what’s specifically wrong with it. That’s usually not their area of expertise. Besides, that’s not their job. It’s my job as a writer is to present them with a great song. Not ask them for their help in making it great! These folks really want to like my song. Their jobs depend on them finding great songs and they want to find writers that can deliver consistently for them.
When I have done my job right it usually goes something like this-
My publisher is asking when he can get a copy of the demo. My co-writer’s publisher can’t wait for the demo and is so pumped up about the song he is running over to a producer to play the simple work tape we did that morning when we wrote the song. The producer then wants to hold the song until he can play it next week for the artist.
The bottom line– A great song motivates people that hear it to take action.
Even though I have a track record of getting songs onto big records, I can tell you the second scenario here happens way less than the first. So opinions on your songs are often an important measuring stick of how well my song is communicating emotions and motivating others to take action.
I try to stay focused on that bottom line. I don’t look for someone else to tell me specifically how to fix my song. Sometimes that can happen but it’s really my responsibility write well and write a great song.
So, If a publisher I trust suggest I make a change, I often try it and see if I like it better. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. But it’s always my call.
Reba McEntire once called and asked me to write an additional 3rd verse to a song of mine called “Sky Full of Angels”.
After hearing her reasons, I wrote a 3rd verse with my co-writer and she recorded the song. I could have disagreed but I felt she was right with her observation that the song was a little short. As it turned out, I still had more to say in “Sky Full Of Angels.”
So the bottom line is I listen to song feedback but I remember the bottom line… and it’s always a matter of what you feel is right after considering someone else’s opinions on your songs.
Write On! CM
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