Want to write a hit song? What are your peeps listening to?


Some great advoce I picked up somewhere was that if you want to write a hit song, you need to know what people are listening to. Whilst its true that there are song pluggers and the radio is very much influenced by the record companies, the fact is that if he radio are regularly playing songs, whether it is because they have an incentive or for any other reason, the net result is people listen to them.

I think it was Jimmy Webb at the S3 conference who said that if you listen to a song at least 5 times, it will grow on you and you will start to like it. This is a formula that they use to get you to buy or follow a track. The lyrics become familiar, the hook becomes entrenched in your mind and if it is pleasing to you, you may well find yourself singing along.

Hit’s are here the money is in songwriting. If you write a hit song, you will be well remunerated and also you will become noticed and in demand by artists and their team, looking for a new song, hoping that you weren’t a one hit wonder.

So is there a magical secret? Magical no, but the key thing is knowing what people like, what are they listening to today. It’s easy to find a market for your songs in today’s world with so many internet vehicles like MySpace, FaceBook, iTunes, Music Forte and hundreds if not thousands of others. But these are less likely to get you a hit for music’s sake, than the radio, which isn’t going away anywhere fast. Radio plays mainstream and mainstream is what it means, i.e. what most people are listening to today.

So in my humble opinion, if you want to write a hit song, rather than (as Ralph Murphy says) be a self indulgent songwriter, writing songs to play in bars after 10 P.M. when people are drunk or t least merry and mostly don’t care, you need to write something different. Something uplifting, which is often very different to what the average songwriter puts together. Murphy says that the hits are the songs that people listen to on the way to work in the morning when they want a lift.

So the first thing to do is to find out what they are listening to. I live in New Zealand, so if I want to write a hit song for the local market, I would go to RIANZ. “The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand Inc (RIANZ) is a non-profit organisation representing major and independent record producers, distributors and recording artists throughout New Zealand.”

RIANZ publishes the weekly New Zealand Top 40 Singles Chart. “The Top 40 Singles Chart is compiled based on a 75:25 split between physical / digital singles sales figures and radio play information gathered by radio data collection agency Radioscope.”They also publish a number of other charts including the Top 10 Radio Airplay Chart.

Like all charts they show the position this week, last week and weeks on the chart. A quick look through these will tell you what is popular in your local world. These charts are a mixture of everything, local and international. To give you an idea, the Top 40 as at Monday 28 July included 5 local acts and Number One on the chart was Phil Collins, In The Air Tonight which this time has been on the NZ charts for 21 weeks! Always on My Mind by Tiki Taane is number 3 still and has been on the charts for 14 weeks.

In my opinion, Always On My Mind is very much a polynesian sound and will be hugely popular locally with our youth and with a reggae flavour has some legs internationally, but I can’t see it being on the charts at Billboard, the other place I look to see what is popular, especially on the Country Charts because Country Music has a huge following in the USA, my major songwriting target market.

So now you know what people are listening to on the radio and what they are buying. What do you do next? Subscibe to my blog and I will tell you more, this isn’t a book after all lol.

If you think this blog is helpful, tell a friend. If you want to hear some of my songs, check out my MySpace page. Oh and please do leave a comment. Is my blog intesting? Is it helpful? Are there things you would like me to write about?

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

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Seth Godin et al


When I was at Song Summit Sydney organised by APRA a few days ago many speakers made suggestions of books to read as well as blogs and other sources of data. One speaker suggested that all song writers who want to market themselves should read Seth Godins Blog.

Now I’ve been a subscriber of his for quite a long time, but don’t read every one of his blogs, I suspect that he doesn’t read any of mine, but anyway, today I decided that I should check out his recent postings to see what was new and found a sage bit of advice, which is “Write like a bloger”. This is great advice and I can attest to it’s value.

Many people love to pontificate and show off their literary prowess by using the longest and most obtuse language and jargon they can think of and it makes their writing boring. Over the years I have written as a freelance journalist and magazine columnist, mostly about technology and of course there was also my book Unleashing the Road Warrior. I always wrote in a conversational manner and I frequently got positive feedback including pone calls, emails and letters to editors in the publications I wrote for. The result of my writing style was:

  1. People felt like I was talking to them and many people feel like they know me even if we haven’t met, with the consequence that when I spoke at conferences and seminars people would come up and talk to me because I was acessible.
  2. People understood what I was talking about and were able to find the information they needed.
  3. I got a lot of business out of it as well as opportunities to speak and present at events all over the world.

I am still in the technology world, although the majority of my writing these days is about my other passion, which is songwriting and I hope eventually to do this full time. All I need is my first number one hit:) In songwriting the same thing is true. Your writing needs to be accessible to your target market. If you are writing for a teenage audience, your language needs to fit the way they think and talk, but it does of course also have to be authetic.

When I wrote my song ‘Another Stretch in Iraq‘ I wrote it for Americans who had served or were serving and I spent 6 months researching the topic. Yes, I used some phrases that weren’t exactly as you speak them and I used some metaphor, but we do that in speech anyway don’t we, I don’t think I’ve opened a can of worms here. I picked up some jargon like MRE, which is short for Made Ready To Eat or is otherwise known as rations. A lot of people won’t get that, but the they aren’t my target audience for the song. The proof was in the pudding.

When I played this song to a live audience in the USA last year the reaction was amazing. One guy co-incidentally known a Mack came to the stage after I played the song with tears in his eyes. He said he had served in Desert Storm and his son was on furlough in Hawai and about to head back to Iraq for another stretch. He said that listening to the lyrics took him right back to the front, so to speak. Even though I had never been there, I had done my homework and made it real, I wrote’ in Seth Godin’s terms, “like a blogger”, and when people listened to the song, it was almost as if they were talking to themselves.

The important thing which I think Jimmy Webb said in his presentation at S3 was to know your market and to write to it. A great song is one that people listen to and totally relate to. They should feel like they own the song, as if it was written for them, or in fact almost as if they wrote it themselves. Then they are in fact relating to themselves.

The thing is that you are the most important person in the world, although my wife says that she has to be the most important person in my world, but if I don’t exist in the first place then she can’t be important to me. Let me put that another way. If we had a party on the weekend and I came to see you with a pile of photos that were taken at the party. Now unless you were incredibly attracted to someone there, which photos will you spend the most time looking at ? (now I don’t want to get involved with genderalisations here (yes I know that word doesn’t exist, but this is my blog right?) but which photos are you going to spend the most time looking at? your own of course).

So my goal as a songwriter, which was ultimately the purpose of this blog is to write commercial songs, i.e. hit songs and part of my method in doing that, in writing like a blogger, is that the person who sings along with the radio or performance feels like the song is theirs, that it is about them, that they own the experience that the song is about.

By the way, if you happen to know an artist or A&R person looking for a new song, please point them in my direction:)

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Sydney Song Summit S3 2008


When you spend a lot of your own money to go overseas to a songwriting conference it is a major leap of faith and this week my faith was rewarded with an amazing conference in Sydney, sponsored by APRA and PRS. I have a new notebook full of ideas which I am hoping will have a huge impact on the future of my career as a songwriter. I am now motivated more than ever, not just to write songs but to write Number One Country Music hits.

I had tears in my eyes through personal presentations by Paul Williams and Jimmy Webb. The latter amazed me when I realised how much his music influenced me. I didn’t realise how much of an impact the chord progressions on songs like By the Time I Get to Phoenix and McArthur Park had on me. I must check out his new album.

The highlight by far was a one hour speed presentation by Ralph Murphy of ASCAP. I learned more about Hit Song songwriting from him in an hour than I have in the last year and I have totally made a personal commitment to use it. It does mean more research and work than I anticipated but I have to admit that much of it was work that I had been procrastinating about anyway. One of my weaknesses is MySpace and communicating with my network. Not that I’m going to stop doing that, but I have to remind myself that this is not just a hobby, it is my future business.

So here I am in the Business Class Lounge at Sydney Airport, an hour early because I didn”t realise that Daylight Savings started this morning. Anyway, here’s to an awesome music year for me in 2008.