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How to Write a Potential "Hit" Song in 5 Easy Steps

Updated on October 3, 2019

Writing a "HIT" song might just turn out to be much easier than you think, but getting your newly conceived melody to resonate and gain traction with a large nationwide or global audience might be the exceedingly difficult part of the creative equation. Contained within the following article, please find five expertly devised, exclusive tips as they relate to writing a "Potential" "Chart Topping" song. The always elusive, often times strenuously exhaustive, inspiration depleting, monumental achievement which every artist dreams of. In the future, I will publish additional related entries pertaining to the best and easiest ways to promote your work, strategies which should help temper the demonstrably overwhelming odds of conversion to that ever elusive "HIT" minus the "Potential". I'm sure you've heard it before, this very alluring reward attained as the near miraculous end result of the gruelling creative process is certainly not easy, but if it's what you truly desire, then by all means go for it. Pursue this goal with uncompromising energy and enthusiasm and then just let the "CD's Fall Where They May".

Song Length 3 To 4 Minutes

According to my rigidly unwavering standard rule, one which concedes ground to very few exceptions, a song should be at least long enough for the listener to learn a few lines of the lyrics and become familiar with the rhythm or beat. A reasonable duration, somewhere within the audibly acceptable confines of the 3 to 4 minute range, will enable the audience to commit at least a small portion to memory so the next time they hear it, a comfortable feeling of "Knowing" the song and respective artist will be an overriding theme. With this in mind, It should never be too long, the threshold of "Enjoyable" to potentially "Annoying" is breached when the duration reaches and or exceeds 5 to 6 minutes. Unless of course your new creation is the next "Stairway to Heaven". If your new song does not demonstrate any of the characteristics of this vintage offering, any song which spills over this very generous threshold runs the risk of crossing that fine line.

The perfect time duration in my opinion is at least 3 minutes but no longer than 4 1/2 minutes. If you adhere to this first unwritten rule, you will accomplish the "Get Familiar/Non Annoyance" aspect which can significantly increase your chances of producing a potential bona fide "Hit".

Up Tempo

Every time you enter that inner dimensional creative space to draw upon the well of inspiration, try to make a concerted, genuine effort to write "Up Tempo" or "Upbeat" songs ( Unless of course it's a traditional love song ), even if the subject matter is "Dark" or of the "Street", always try to keep it snappy. Sure, it's possible to make it with obscure, slow, sleepy tempo tunes similar to "Moby" creations, but how many "Moby's" do you hear on the radio today? Not many I'll bet, but on the flip side, how many "Foo Fighter" style bands do you hear? I think it's safe to assume possibly a few more than the Moby likeness. Not to imply Moby isn't a great song writer or artist, but I believe he was extremely fortunate to find a very loyal niche audience that appreciates his underground style music for its unusually obscure, hauntingly appealing quality. However, given this brief evaluation, I would strongly recommend that you save the slower, downbeat tempo tunes for your first or second CD release subsequent to being signed or establishing a massive league of dedicated fans. One or possibly even two of these lethargically creeping tunes will be acceptable when mixed in with a generous assortment of more energetic selections.

Broad Audience Appeal

I would forget the mainstream conventional wisdom which dictates a flawed philosophy centered on playing what you like as priority above all else unless of course, pleasing yourself is more important than commercial success. I'm sure you've heard it at least 3 to 4 million times from your favorite artist via an MTV or VH1 interview, or from a local radio Disc Jockey, or YouTube aficionado talking about the ins and outs of the record business. Everyone within the industry are usually unanimous in espousing a common philosophy out of which they believe magically sprouts the ultimate recipe for success. I've personally heard several variations on this theme but all have a similar root nucleus, and it goes something like this:

  • "Don't try to please anyone else but yourself, play the kind of music you enjoy and don't compromise artistic integrity just for the sake of trying to make it in the Music Business" -

Well, it's certainly a nice cliche' that we've all heard time and time again, but as previously expressed in explicit terms, I believe there are certain inherent flaws in this strategy which could steer aspiring young talented artists in the wrong direction. If you're playing for your own self gratification and have no desire to "Make It" in the music business, the advice annotated above would of course be relevant, however, if your desire is to take the "Universe by Storm" in an unbridled whirlwind of syncopated audio splendor by writing commercially successful songs that appeal to the entire world, then the preceding ill-conceived passage might not be the most appropriate words to follow, emulate in action, nor immortalized. You should discount according to your own instinct and personal motivation.

Drawing upon personal experience working directly within the creative laboratories of this electrically charged field, I can say with certitude, what it really comes down to is understanding your ultimate personal goal. Are you playing for fun strictly as a hobby? Or, are you serious about becoming a bona fide "Paid" professional artist? If your goal is the latter, in my expert opinion, it is absolutely essential that you write melodies & lyrics which will appeal to the broadest audience possible, even if it means slightly tweaking or completely overhauling your current writing style. If you take this advice and begin to craft songs that will appeal to a larger demographic than you are currently reaching, your odds of actually making it in the business will indeed go up dramatically even though from the very beginning they are overwhelmingly stacked against you. But why make it even harder by playing the style you "like" if indeed this type of music is way out of the mainstream or overtly obscure? For instance "Punk Opera" or "Grunge Polkas". Sure, if you're extremely lucky this ambitious endeavour might pan out some day but what are the odds? And when? If your current style is indeed more mainstream then by all means, continue to write songs with that in mind.

  • Once again, just to reiterate a critically important fundamental aspect, if you're writing songs with the pre-determined intent of miraculously converting the tunes into legitimate, money and fame making "HITS", you may find it necessary to compromise your Desires & Self Gratification needs only to begin the potentially arduous, less than fulfilling process of writing commercially acceptable music that appeals to the largest audience possible. Think along the lines of "Coldplay", "Lady GaGa" ( Yes a little off the wall but very Danceable & Singable with great hooks ), "Kings of Leon", or even the "Beatles" if you so dare -

Concise Lyrics

A perfect example of a song that is lyrically unappealing to me is the "Red Hot Chili Peppers" "Scar Tissue". The melody is good but the words leave something to be desired. Sure, I can sing along with it but I have no idea what I'm singing and what the lyrics actually mean, hence a slight disconnect. A little too abstract for my taste and I would assume for many others, but the "Chili Peppers" are one of the most popular bands in the business with an extremely talented lineup of musicians who can actually get away with this type of lyrical contortion now mainly because they have spent several arduous decades building up a huge loyal following only to reach the pinnacle of Bona Fide Rock Star status. However, if you listen to some of the peps earlier work, back when they were struggling for airplay, the lyrics were more clear and concise, straight to the point, and easily deciphered. Example "Underneath the Bridge" "Higher Ground" ( Even though the latter was a Stevie Wonder "Knock off" ).

In essence, try your level best to be transparent, understandable, and easily comprehensible with lyrics, at least in the beginning stages of your career. As a professional who can draw upon decades of experience which includes working with some high profile artists, I can personally attest to the fact that people always like to sing what they can relate to and conversely, are usually disenchanted with abstract passages which mean very little if anything on an intimate level. Have no fear nor regrets, when you make it to the "Big Show" there will be plenty of time to write in metaphors and "Egyptian Hieroglyphs" if the desire to do so remains uncontrollable.

Catchy Chorus (Hook)

I'm sure you've heard this one more times than the local weather report, or the phrase "Trust Me, Trickle Down Economics Really Works", but believe me, it's very true. Even an average song can become a mega hit if the chorus is "Catchy". An irresistibly attractive and alluring chorus which is carefully and deliberately incorporated into the body and soul of the melody that will compel the general public in a universal, harmonious display, to sing it in the shower, possibly even against their free will, hum it profusely at work while typing and preparing pleading paper, or, to habitually dig it just about anywhere else. Nothing complex here, so let your imagination run wild, sing it out loud before putting it on the digital recorder and hope for the best.


  • Back in the day, the process of promoting a song or band was nearly impossible without the assistance of an agent or manager who had connections with one or more major record labels. If you didn't have credible and competent representation one of the only other ways to gain publicity and a potential contract was to play the club circuit, slowly build a following, then hope a talent scout would catch your act and sign you to a label.
  • Fortunately those days are behind us and unlimited virtual free publicity is a simple click away via YouTube and any number of other web sites designed to attract unique content for worldwide distribution. That's the good news, the bad news is the general public will always be subjected to mediocre and in some cases down right awful acts in between the genuinely talented individuals. But then again one persons "Awful" is another's "Work of Art", so maybe we should reserve judgement on what constitutes "ART". In any event, write your new "Potential" "HIT" song without sparing a drop of Vigor & Enthusiasm, Then use the huge wealth of "REAL" & "VIRTUAL" resources available at your fingertips to get it out in front of as many people as possible and who knows, your "Potential Hit" someday just might evolve into that ever elusive "HIT".


  • Best of Luck and please do return in the future to find additional articles published on this and other music industry related topics -


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