Is it a Song? Or is it just Music?

Kenny's Tip of the Day - Is it a Song? Or is it just Music?

This one is less of a Tip and more of a discussion about how we discuss music. Or songs. Or both!!

I tend to get a lot of pushback when I discuss “How to write a great SONG” or what type of songs you can sell or make a living writing. You have to understand that besides producing and mixing, I’ve built my career around writing Pop songs. Or popular songs. So I tend to discuss things very much from that perspective. Where the song, is King.

IOW - A song needs to stand on its own. It’s greatness comes from its pliability. Or it’s willingness to be performed by anyone at any time and still be something of value. If your 10 year old cousin plays this song on her ukelele, it should be enjoyed by all.

Oh. I know. This is a narrow lens. Many people define “songs” as great, that are just great to them or those that enjoy the genre that they enjoy. Whether it be experimental jazz or death metal.

But I would argue that those types of songs, or those types of genres don’t really have “songs” in the sense of most of my discussions. It’s “music”. It’s not “bad” music. Not even one tiny step below the music or songs that I’m talking about. But I question whether or not they are even “songs”. As opposed to “music” broken down into smaller easily digested pieces.

Let’s take a song like Happy Birthday. Everybody knows it. Most of you can play it on an instrument quite easily without even referring to it from a recording. It’s a known “song”. It exists outside the realm of any artist. I would bet almost none of us can think of one artist that has ever recorded it. Maybe Marilyn Monroe singing it to the president?

Now let’s compare that with your favorite death metal, EDM track or post hardcore or mathcore “song”. I’m going to bet that if you like any of those genres, you probably like an Artist more than any one of their songs.

For example, if you’re a fan of Pop music, you probably like songs from 15 different artists right now but may not buy or listen to any of their complete albums. You like the songs despite whether or not you like the artist. Although you can do both.

Compare that to a death metal or post hardcore fan who probably listens to his or her favorite albums from beginning to end each time they listen. Rare to cherry pick a song they want to listen to and then not listen to another.

My underlying point here is that when you’re a fan of a certain style or genre of music and you love a certain artist, you don’t tend to focus on any ONE song. You like them all. Or most. You like the “sound” of that artist and you like their “music”. The songs are still important but not as important as the artist themselves.

This obviously works to these artist’s advantage as they are less likely to become “one hit wonders”. But it’s also a harder climb as they need to bring you into their entire universe. When you hear one of their songs, they need you to say “I love this. I want to hear dozens more songs by this artist”. Although, I might argue, you really just want to embrace their “music”.

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I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia