The following items represent a
comprehensive listing of song characteristics provided by Janet Fisher of Goodnightkiss Music. They may not apply to all
forms of music. However, the majority will apply to most country, pop/rock
and adult type songs. Feel free to download this list for future reference.
You should check at least 80% of the notes to have a marketplace contender.
The first line or two should hook the listener into wanting to hear what comes next.
People will be able to hum the melody after hearing it a few times.
The lyric is conversational. No forced rhymes, no convoluted phrases or sentences.
Today, you do not need to have perfect (care, bear) type rhymes. Meaning is more important.
The listener will know the title of the song once he/she has heard it through. This is the place where many songs fall down. I've seen songs where the title is never mentioned in the lyric, or it is a pick up phrase, rather than a strong line.
The lyric and the melody belong together. It's called prosody. Happy lyrics/ happy melody.
The words and music flow naturally. No forcing more lyrics into what sings easily, no stretching out lyrics to fill in lack of ideas.
The song has a timeless feel about it. Try to avoid dating your material with references to events and people who may be obscure next year. Though, contemporary references do sometimes appear in country songs. How many of you know all the names and places in Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire?"
Songs should be built around a universal theme, idea or feeling. You want as many people as possible to relate to the material.
The song should be self contained. No explanation or mind reading is necessary to understand the story. If you have to say "What I mean by this, is...... then you need to rewrite the song.
The song is an acceptable length for radio play. Probably, no more than 3 1/2 minutes. The demo should not contain musical breaks.
The lyrics are honest, believable and heartfelt.
Ask yourself, would the singer want to be associated with the tone or message in these lyrics? If the male comes across as weak or the female as a victim, the artist will probably pass on the song. One big no-no is self pity. I have also been told by other publishers they don't like to hear begging songs, though its' been done.
Song lyrics aren't the same as poetry. Are your lyrics realistic in tone? Abstractions are hard for the public to grasp in the immediate sense, which is where the song is accepted or rejected.
Strong lines. The lyric should get better as it progresses through the song. Many times, writers cop out on the second verse, and resort to cliches to get through it. This is where rewriting may be necessary.
Does the song revolve around one main idea, or is the lyric scattered all over the place. It is usually okay to go somewhere else in the bridge, if it adds to the understanding with a different perspective on the same idea as the rest of the song.
Does the song change time frames? Has the listener been prepared to go from the past to the present, or, one locale to another? An abrupt shift will cause you to lose the listener.
Controversial topics should be avoided, but, if you do choose debatable subjects, make sure they are presented tastefully. I don't think the listener would sit still for a blow by blow account of an abortion, for example.
Does the song blame the listener for the singer's condition? No listener wants to associated with causing another's pain, or, be labeled as an s.o.b.
Has the song been subjected to an objective view? If you can, play it for few people who do NOT know you are the writer. In fact tell them it's an acquaintance's song and they can be truthful.
How many of these craft worthy details can you point to in the song?
The title is up front, the first line of the chorus? It is repeated for memorability?
The lyrics express a new way of presenting the familiar? They are cliche free?
The lyrics paint vivid images with word pictures?
The song/melody is short enough and simple enough to catch the listener's ear and be recognizable the first time it's heard?
The song has a touch of suspense or mystery about it that pulls the listener in?
©Goodnightkiss Music, BMI