I would follow their social media and process what they are posting. I want to know what they are thinking – where their heads are at or at least to fully understand what image of themselves they are creating or maintaining. Going through a divorce? Tired of being on the road? At the end of a long tour? Going to record a new album? All of those things affect what sorts of songs they might want at that one particular moment. We, as songwriter, must be quick in absorbing their situation and write great songs, exactly matching their current mindset. So, if I’m trying to get a cut on any major artist, I ask these questions. I’ll give the answers for Blake Shelton specifically to give you an example of the thought process.
What is going on in that artist’s life? In Blake’s case, at the time I wrote this article, he is madly in love with Gwen Stefani and still fresh off of a very public recent divorce from Miranda Lambert. Both of those things affect his choices of songs as well as any other aspect of his life – well, his public life at least. He doesn’t want to get on stage and bash Miranda. She has a lot of fans. He doesn’t want to alienate those people. So, he has to be careful what he says about exes. Even his new love songs may tiptoe around Miranda just a bit. He might not want to bash her indirectly by gushing over someone new so soon. Knowing where an artist is in their personal life is very important to be able to find out what exactly those artists might need and what is best for us to pitch for them.
What is their brand? Artists have a very distinct brand. Years and tons of money and effort had been spent to create an image for them and to maintain that image. Even if you think of an artist like John Mayer whom has the image of “the guy next door” or “your best friend who happened to be a singer”, there still has been millions of dollar spent to create that “humble” image for him and it doesn’t necessarily means he must be humble as his image looks. For each and every artist the image is different than anyone else and these differences are what attracts the fans. If they weren’t different than each other, no one would prefer one artist over another. Blake does a lot of love songs. He does lots of story songs. He also does funny songs. And he does songs that give a nod to country music or his country upbringing. Most of his songs fall into one of those categories. One of my songs in country genre fit exactly in his image and his current public situation. He, and his fans, like doing stuff to country songs. It also had a funny element that made it work for two of his categories. Knowing, analyzing and following the alignment and direction of the artist’s brand is key to getting a cut on their record.
What is this artist willing to say in front of 60,000 people night after night? Early in my career, I wrote an amazing song called “Who Are You?”. My publisher thought it was the best thing I had ever written to that date. It was about a boy catching his dad cheating on his mom and losing all respect for his father as if he doesn’t know his father is anymore and the hook was about him, asking that man “you are not my father whom I used to know, who are you?”. It was a great song, but no one wants to get on stage in front of 60,000 people and sing about their father cheating on their mom night after night after night. That is not exactly the most beautiful image for an artist to have in public. My song never was recorded because that’s not something that an artist wants to sing about. Blake isn’t likely to sing any song that paints him in a bad light. That hurts his brand. If people think he’s a drunk, a cheater, a liar, or any negative kind of character, they wouldn’t like him. People that don’t like him don’t buy albums or t-shirts or come to concerts. That hurts his bottom line, so he’s not going to do that. Make the singer look good if you want a cut on their record.
What does this singer not write? Carrie Underwood writes almost all of her ballads. There’s no use writing one and pitching it to her. However, she writes almost none of her man-bashing type songs. That’s your ticket if you want a Carrie Underwood cut. Blake Shelton doesn’t write much at all, so the field is wide open, as long as you write one of the categories of things that he will say. For each artist you want to pitch, first you should do a research about whether they write their songs or not. If not, great for you. If they do write their songs, you must find out if they are open for songs written by others, and if so, what type of song they might need that they don’t usually write themselves, and that’s your window. You should pitch to them what exactly completes their music career.
Hangi Tavakoli is our in-house established and professional music producer with 20 years of experience in songwriting, music production, mix and mastering. He has written and produced more than 5,000 published songs to-date, including some major hits in international scale.