Know Your Audience
When you write a song, do you approach it with an audience in mind? Know your audience--it's a simple concept but not always easy. Conceptualizing who will be listening to your songs can help to direct your songwriting efforts toward a logical and successful outcome. It is true that songwriting is an art, but even art can be aided by general guidelines and concepts that traditionally work. The reason these guidelines traditionally work is because on some level they identify what people generally find pleasing. And for a songwriter, your unique art and expression is largely about finding a connection with others--a small space in the universe where people come together over an idea. Knowing your audience is about recognizing what makes other people tick and demonstrating that you identify with the human experience. This is a goal songwriters try to reach in both the personal and professional arena.
In my business of commissioned songwriting, it is critical that I use this particular guideline and know my audience. If you are writing purely to please yourself, then clearly you are your own audience.
There is nothing wrong with that; however, to leave a lasting impression on an audience, you want to be able to connect with them. And the way to do that....is to have a good idea of what they'd like to hear! For example, there is a country band in town and they often play at a few particular venues. You want to write a song for them to play at their gigs. What kind of song should you write? A country song, of course. But what else? To know your audience means asking very specific questions. What is the lifestyle of the people they play for? Are they cowboys/cowgirls? Are they farmers and tractor-lovers? Are they hillbillies or holler folk? Are they mountain-trekking miners/loggers? What are some specific struggles and pleasures associated with this lifestyle? What are the common threads among these people? You have to try to get to know them--show them that you get where they're coming from--even if you never meet them. Not so easy at all.
Getting to know your audience can sometimes require a lot of research, but can be the difference between writing a song they didn't mind or writing their favorite song. As always, write firstly because you love it. Never compromise yourself for anyone. The love of what you do will come out in your songs and people always identify with love.