1. A strong lyrical structure and melody
A hit song can be anything; Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen, Forget You, Cee Lo, Barbie Girl, Aqua, Let It Be, The Beatles. Even Agadoo, Black Lace – you might not like the lyrics, you may find it cheesy, but it sold millions.
You know from one taste of a bowl of soup whether you are going to like it or not. The same thing applies to a hit song. As soon as it starts, from the first 10 or 20 seconds you know whether you like it. Then it’s a case of how strong the song is.
Charles K Harris, one of the first professional songwriters and pioneers of Tin Pan Alley, once said 'If you find a man who can tell you what a hit is I will pay him $50,000 a year'.
It’s hard to define what a hit is. A strong lyrical structure, and melody helps. You know it’s a hit from the moment it starts - it just draws you in.
2. Find a ‘hit voice’ to sing your hit song
This is not necessarily the best voice. Most people would agree that Bob Dylan is not the greatest singer, but as soon as you hear a Dylan song, you know it’s him. He has a hit voice. Tom Waits is another example. On the other hand, Barbra Streisand and Joni Mitchell are amazing singers, and distinctive. It’s the tone, the delivery, the sentiment and the DNA of the voice that sells the song.
3. Record a hit arrangement/production for your song
An example of this would be Trevor Horn’s production work on Frankie Hollywood hits Relax, or Two Tribes. Some songs are all about the arrangement and harmonic structure of the chords that underpin it. If you get the chords wrong, the melody doesn’t shine.
4. Write for your audience
Sometimes your instinct doesn’t tell you the truth. Your instinct sometimes is to be a bit too arty, or a bit too self indulgent - doing what you like to do – and you’re not necessarily aware that this does not translate well for a wider audience. That’s why it’s often good to co-write with people, who may have different objectives to your own.
5. Originate, innovate, don’t deviate
Whatever you do should be original, it should be you. To be original is to innovate, bringing something different to the table that others don’t. Don’t deviate, or give up on your passion. It’s a tough business, but if you do give up at the first hurdle, you’ll never know what you could have achieved.
Songwriter and musician Tony Moore is the creative spirit behind the Kashmir Klub at The Bedford in Balham, London. He hosts an eclectic selection of live music there four nights a week, and it has long been a mecca for songwriters and lovers of new music alike.
Previously in the Make it Happen series...
Make it Happen 1 - using social media
Make it Happen 2 - your music and the net