Country songwriters seek ‘regular’ customers
For most songs, even substantial repeat activity does not result in a direct financial increase in income, as the platform earns micro-bounties.
“A fraction of a fraction of a fraction”, songwriter Jimmy robbins (“Bones”, “Half of my hometown”) laments.
But streaming performance has a strong influence on which songs air on AM / FM stations as singles, and a hit on this platform can potentially result in six-figure payouts.
“You want to accumulate these coins for the radio crews and all these different decision makers to choose your song,” says songwriter Ben johnson (“Give Heaven Some Hell”, “One of Them Girls”) from the Broken Bow act Track45.
To that end, country writers are increasingly looking for subtle tricks that could prompt a listener to throw Replay when a song comes to an end. The best way to do this is to make the trail seem inconclusive or unresolved – that is, to leave them wanting more.
“There is something unconscious in the human brain that when something isn’t finished you kind of want to listen to it again”, songwriter Jordan reynolds (“10,000 hours”, “Tequila”) observed. “I don’t know what it is about our brain, but it really works.”
Dan + Shay member Dan Smyers is a key force in the movement. He frequently mentions the “replay value” of songs when he breaks them down, and many of his associates – including co-authors Reynolds and Laura Veltz (“Speechless”, “I Could Use a Love Song”) and video director Patrick tracy (“10,000 hours”, “I should probably go to bed”) – apply the same concepts to their work.
“I just wrote a song where we only have two choruses”, songwriter Laura Veltz (“Speechless”, “I could use a love song”) notes. “The motive was that the chorus is a real highlight of the song, and if they hear it three times, are they less likely to want to play it again? Or are they more likely to hear it only twice? ? that cool thing that makes you think of the chorus, but it’s not the chorus. And we did it on purpose, just to see if it leaves people wanting more. “
Smyers and his co-writers made a similar gesture with “I should probably go to bed,” although, he says, it wasn’t intentional. In the duo’s current single, however, he very deliberately used a pitch-shift technique to transform a Shay mooney ad-lib in a short, melodic embellishment that sounds like a Mariah careyExpression in the stratosphere. This only happens twice, as a kind of teasing.
“It was just another little layer,” says Smyers. “When you think you’ve heard it all, here’s a little ear candy that won’t spawn for about 45-50 seconds. ‘What was that?’ You know, you have to keep listening or you have to go back and listen again. We always like to throw little Easter eggs like this. “
The whole music industry is, of course, built on the Replay concept. Popular radio stations operate under a system that aims to play the songs that listeners want to hear the most at the right level of repetition. Earworms – the catchy riffs and melodies that play over and over in a listener’s head – are a form of currency songwriters have been trying to generate for decades. Singer-songwriter ROBUST said the composer Chris Tompkins (“Before He Cheats”, “Drunk on a Plane”) believed that every hit contained an addictive element that made the listener want to hear it more than once. The digital age has simply increased writers’ awareness of the value of proofreading and the techniques that can enhance it.
“Maybe this TikTok era brought it to life because these TikTok songs are only about 10 seconds long, and they play that magical part, which is the part you want to experience,” says HARDY. “A lot of people are realizing that, and they should be. I think that’s what makes success.”
The desire for “repeat” clients has led songwriters on some occasions to abruptly cut their songs off at the end, the songwriter says. Hunter Phelps (“I don’t know about you”, “Drink beer. Talk about God. Amen”). And it inspired some to write their songs shorter, believing that listeners might need to extend their engagement.
“Every time ‘Old Town Road’ came out it wasn’t a very long song,” says Phelps. “I’ve definitely listened to this three times in a row when it came out, and it might have something to do with how short it was and how shattering the melody was.”
Another trick is to retain the melodic resolution, perhaps better understood Rodgers and Hammerstein song “Do-Re-Mi” by The sound of music. Near its peak, Julie andrews sings “ti” – the seventh note in the scale – for an extended period of time. Viewers sometimes lean forward in their seats at this point, anxious to see the song’s resolution to “do”. But what if the writer never brings us back to “do”?
“I’ve always been a huge fan of late [a] chord that doesn’t say the song is over, “says Robbins.” I think people are subconsciously affected when they don’t feel like it’s over, and they might be more likely to start over. “
It becomes even more meaningful if the song’s lyrics aren’t resolved. In the 1960s, the songwriter Stax David Porter (“Soul Man”, “Hold On, I’m Comin ‘”) noticed that most Motown recordings left their plots open, and he became a successful writer using this same approach. Emphasizing this point, uncertainty is a key feature of classics of this period, such as Bobbie gentry“Ode To Billie Joe” and Otis redding’s “(Sittin ‘On) The Dock of the Bay”, but it is also intrinsic to current titles such as Chris Stapletonof “Start over” and Miranda Lambert“Settling Down”.
“On a philosophical level, when you write a song about life, most of the things in our life aren’t resolved,” says Robbins. “It’s hard to put a period on things just because it’s not very realistic.”
Ultimately, while it is beneficial to have songs with a high replay value, the devices that create them may not be realistic for many copyrights. So while the techniques are used more frequently in Nashville’s writing rooms, they are also being challenged.
“I don’t want this to affect the art too much,” says Robbins. “Because it’s such a special thing. When I step back and think, ‘Whoa, we just made up something that didn’t exist five hours ago,’ that’s actually enough. amazing. really peeked behind the curtain too far, may never come back. “
This article first appeared in the weekly Billboard Country Update. Click on here to subscribe for free.