Writing for Radio – Week 6 Challenge – Feedback from Cara Heath

by Cara Heath

Thank you everyone for taking this challenge by writing some amazing songs and pushing yourself! From reading your takes on the experience, it seems like it was a good challenge that got you a bit further out of your comfort zones. Overall I think the songs were great first attempts and that it will help to get you in that self-edit mode that is critical to grow as a songwriter.

One thing that became pretty obvious to me is that everyone perceives radio differently and something that I always like to tell up and coming artists is to listen to the radio, and get a sense for what is happening now. Radio, like everything, is a constantly evolving medium, changing with the current sounds. So if you haven’t tuned in to a station in awhile and you’re basing your idea on what that station was playing more than 2 years ago, it will have changed. My challenge to you going forward is to listen and familiarize yourself with all radio and get an idea of what is happening now, so you have a better idea of where you might or might not fit.

It was great to see how quick you all were with producing new songs and the great instincts you all have for melody and hooks.  I know these were quick demos and could eventually evolve into some great songs, so I didn’t look too hard at sound / instrument choices, production, etc. as I know these would not be considered finished songs. So what I’m looking at here is overall structure, melody, and hooks. I know that from here it would be properly recorded and polished.

Remember, from the Music Director at the radio station to the listener, songs are judged quickly, so your song needs to capture people’s attention quickly, hold it and have them humming along by the end of it!

Tea Petrovic “Boomerang”

Interesting ballad, I really like the sound of the vocals, and the melody is great! The song is very catchy and memorable! This song really illustrates the challenge I set out, editing the structure to make a hard-hitting, catchy song.  You were quick to the vocals coming in starting at the 9 sec mark. From there the song draws you in and builds nicely, through catchy pre-chorus to the memorable chorus that comes in at the 40 second mark. Love the bridge, the transition fits nicely in the song, and the slow down/break down part is great as well. I really recommend finishing the song; I think you have something here!

Adrianne Ralph & Gordon Wong “Online Romeo”

This song was another great example of the challenge. Adrianne you have a great a voice! This song is fun, and the lyrics are relatable to those dating in these modern times.  Regarding timing, quick to the first vocal (7 seconds), quick verse, and then moving right into the build of the pre chorus, to the chorus at 48 seconds. Nice, concise, catchy and memorable song. I would experiment with a few different types of instrumentation and really finish the song. Great job!

DC James & Ahi “Rise”

This song is good structurally and has a big chorus. At times it reminds me of songs in 80’s movies like Top Gun and Footloose but I think that is just due to the thematic / anthemic sound to the song. Not exactly something that could fit right in at radio as is, but with some re-tooling of sounds, a bit of the structure, and a bit more modern sounding, it might take on a new life. Great overall theme of rising above things and believing in yourself, which is very important!

Shout outs to:

Katy Carswell “702”

The song was a good first attempt at the self-edit. I suggest experimenting with song dynamics a bit more to make different parts have a little more oomph to them but I really love your voice and I just had to tell you that! Good melody too! Maybe this song done slightly different instrumentally and re-worked a bit, might turn into something great!

North Easton / Roseanne Baker Thornley “Invisible Stain (Everybody’s Gotta Secret)

Country song with a great chorus, work out the verses a bit and keep on it. It seems like the song is almost there.

Going forward:
1) Take a listen to a variety of radio and get a sense of what is happening now
2) Study song structure further and think of new / different ideas to implement into your songs
3) Keep pushing yourself! It is evident that you are all so talented, can’t wait to see what songs come from you in the future.


Letter to Emerging Songwriters From a Songwriting Coach

James Linderman is one of the passionate coaches who helped nurture our 120+ community of songwriters who participated in this year’s S.A.C. Songwriting & Blogging Challenge.  As the challenge wrapped up he summarized some words of wisdom which he has agreed to share with us here.  Thanks to Debra Alexander, our other passionate coach, for transcribing James’ video.

by James Linderman

Be Wary of The Critique.
As you have your work critiqued, remember that you are winning over—or not winning over—one single listener with a perceived importance. Credentials can be a bit of a mirage. The hit song someone has had doesn’t necessarily give them that much information to pass along to you as to how to produce a hit song of your own.

The material that you need to produce a song that you can love comes from:

1) your own personal tastes—deciding what you like and don’t like about other people’s work
2) transferring those personal tastes onto your own work
3) and hard work— the diligence of building skills, so that you can flesh out ideas so that they become, not just imagined, but real

Gaining a true perspective on the value of your work doesn’t necessarily come from the approval of a celebrity. Deciding what music is “consumable” is not determined by celebrities, academics, or any particular segment of society. We all, as “folks,” get to decide what music we like…and that is what makes “folk music.”

Be Wary of the Idea of One Big Break. 
People who get their music moved forward have generally worked very hard to get their music moved forward. Forwards are based on the personal tastes of reviewers, as well as a few rules…but remember that personal biases are always a factor, because listeners are flawed human beings.

Getting your music forwarded is a terrific thing to have happen, but consider the break in getting your music forwarded as only part of a series of small steps. Most peoples’ careers are not based on a single piece of good luck or good fortune or one single break. Once you get a break, you have to produce more and more work to show you deserve to have a place at the table. Also it is very difficult to get peoples’ attention, and it is even harder to hold that attention.

Move forward by getting one piece of music recognized, and then another piece of music, and then another… take small steps; back up “breaks”  by more hard work in order to obtain longevity.

Build Community.
Karma is a ruthless and fairly relentless piece of social equipment. Karma looks after the things that we generally don’t. Be good to one another. Build relationships with people. Move one another forward and make an effort to have each other’s backs. If you’re doing this right, you’ll have a lot more rejections than you’ll have things go through, and it’s good to have people around you to help you get through the discouraging times, and also to help you have more opportunities and broaden your chances so you can continue to have hope.

Create Your Own Luck.
If you want to have success that is built on making contemporary music, get a radio (!) and put your ear to the ground so you can meet the criteria of contemporary listeners. If you want to be in that part of the music industry, listen carefully to understand what makes contemporary popular music successful, and produce the same kind of music.

If you don’t want to make that kind of music, you can still find success in other parts of the music world. Find other listeners who like whatever kind of music you want to make. Making music only for money is perhaps a hollow pursuit if it is not a reflection of what you truly desire to express.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Success.
More people are afraid of success than of failure. Failure can feel very comforting. Because there are so many rejections compared to successes, you’ll find lots of people who will sympathize with you, people who are in the same boat as you, people who will come to your rescue. On the other hand, when you’re successful it can be very isolating. Lots of people will be jealous of your success; people will be critical of it, and feel you didn’t deserve it because their vision is based on what they put into their own art and they are not willing to see the value in the work you do. Be aware of people who only like you for your accomplishments, and what they think you can offer them. Cultivate relationships with people who understand who you really are, as your achievements are not really you.

Learn How To Shut The World Out.
Mostly, you need to put your head down and work hard at your craft:
-Practice your songs in front of a mirror
-Know what you look like
-Know what you sound like
-Record everything
-Become a great archivist of your image in terms of your art
-Know what it is you want to produce
-Know what it is you DO produce
-Know where you are in the continuum of your career

Your Listeners Deserve Your Work.
Take the opportunity to play your music because you have every right to do so, and you deserve to play it, and your audience can enjoy it whether or not you think you’re on a ‘professional’ level.

Your Listeners Deserve Your Work.

Take the opportunity to play your music because you have every right to do so, and you deserve to play it, and your audience can enjoy it whether or not you think you’re on a ‘professional’ level.