by Nick J. Townsend
Pre Sporting Event Songs
A trend many independent musicians have attempted is writing a catchy non threatening tune during the run up to a major sporting event. Normally it’s a sports obsessed member of the band that instigates this pursuit. World Cup victory songs for the England football team are quite common and most of them end up floating in limbo after the final match; largely due to narrow minded lyrical choices such as “England Are Going To Win” which lose their significance once England have lost. Most songwriters responsible for writing a football tune that inadvertently highlights memories of a devastating soul crushing match defeat result will eventually destroy any evidence of its existence.
Traditionally regarded as a sentimental or romantic tune and typically viewed as a strategic cash cow designed to breach a mainstream audience. Metal bands for example tend to feature one ballad-like tune on their albums which as a rule are just a B minor chord strummed for four minutes. Also an ideal opportunity for the drummer to test out their dusty Cajon drum set whilst looking like they’re spanking a bedside cabinet.
During a live gig an instrumental tune is a convenient time for the vocalist of the band to have a wash, fix a tyre, take an insulin shot or order a kebab. With no singer performing it allows the remaining musicians to dismiss the standard verse chorus verse chorus song structure and participate in an extreme act of self indulgence whilst their crowd visit the bar. On an album the instrumental serves as either an atmospheric introduction or a melodic bridge between two other songs.
If writing an original song isn’t your strongest skill then shoehorning a bewildering slab of covers into your live set or artist back catalogue will definitely help hide your lack of knowledge. The obvious advantage of using a cover is that you can be allowed to play the greatest most successful songs ever made even if you’re the worst musician on the planet; plus dumb people may assume you wrote them.
Raising money for a charitable cause whether it be ‘Save The Giant Rat’, ‘Vindaloo Research’ or “The John Wick Orphanage Trust’ can give your band massive publicity; especially if you’ve written a song about it and recorded it. If made chart eligible your song, no matter how badly written, stands to likely sell much faster as it’ll evoke emotional blackmail, tug heartstrings and escape normal musical criticism due to the nature and message of the tune.
These can be very effective for highlighting and promoting a way of thinking or engaging an audience with similar viewpoints. Music made for a cause saving, banning or boycotting something that many feel passionate about might in the short term give you a brand new fan base. Results will usually work best during the height of any media hype for the movement.
However, although writing a tune with a protester-like attitude can attract new fans it can also behave as a harmful deterrent and push away potential listeners due to their views being completely polar opposite. Plus there’s a possibility of the tune becoming dated if the nature of the subject changes over time and once the anti-whatever song is created it can also leave people with the lasting misguided impression that all your other tunes have the same theme or underline message even if they’ve not heard them yet; this too can work for or against you but may crucify you if you adopt a different stance in the future.
Controversial or Offensive Tunes
Writing an X-rated tune is guaranteed to reduce your chances of obtaining any serious commercial radio play, getting airplay before watershed or becoming the anthem for the Cartoon Network. However, if done tastefully and artistically you could either create a fantastic cult hit for your fans or completely destroy your angelic image. Having a radio edit of the song is a wise choice. A song featuring the F-Bomb or sexual overtones can gain you attention but what is beautiful and clever to one person can be obnoxious and unnecessarily rude to another.
Irony, humour and exaggeration if executed well can touch an audience far greater than the smartest of lyrics. Comedic songs often suffer live as vocals are prone to sounding rather muddy at gigs thus making lyrics difficult to identify but if your audience are expecting comedic satire from you then they’ll likely be staring at your mouth throughout the entire show so hopefully they can lip read. Some bands revealing a sense of humour via a song have heavily pleased their fan base whilst others decide it would be devastating to be seen smiling or doing anything amusing; just ask Morrissey or Nick Cave.
Anchoring a song to a time of year such as Summer or Winter can limit its longevity but also may help you dominate a particular period. Writing a song about Pancake Day for example would in all likelihood suggest you’d receive maximum results if promoted on or around the occasion. Tunes with Halloween, Christmas or Summertime in the title or chorus will probably leave an impression of when the song will have the most meaning. Of course, if you’re convinced fans will embrace a Yuletide song in the middle of July then who’s to say that won’t deliver?
The duet formula established by mainstream pop stars joins together two different fan bases to sell one song. This union of musicians is often badly replicated by Independent artists and the reasons for this are often financial ones. For starters, neither artist is likely to see a large immediate cash return from recording a duet song as each are still desperately scrambling for public attention and there’s no such thing as spare studio time. You’ll more likely witness a cheap cop out and see bands dragging guests onto a live stage to sing a duet rather than invest money on them in a recording studio. The sad reality is that many upcoming artists can barely afford to professionally record tunes and due to their competitive nature most will question why they should blow money on recording a song which technically helps a competitor.
That’s all for this month. If you’d like a serious career in the music industry then perhaps reading this column every month will help?
Nick J Townsend is the frontman and guitarist for British band Weak13. An experienced Underground musician and music promoter, film producer, all round good guy & supporter of original music.