While I lay out important steps for hit songs in my book Futurehit.DNA, is that all it takes? This morning I got an insightful tweet from David Brogan asking that very question. He writes a UK based blog posting articles on writing hit songs as well, and his question is a variation on one I get asked often:
If we have the same ingredients & follow the same recipe, shouldn’t we get similar results?
The key words of “ingredients” and “recipe” are the important signifiers here. It would be great if the only thing you needed to do is read my book and spit out a big hit. But there’s many more elements involved that can never be taught in a book. Experience is about the only way you can get thru that. Comparing that to cooking is a great way to frame those elements.
Pick the right ingredients. How many times do you hear stories of great chefs waking up at 4 AM to hit the fish market to get the freshest catch? Going to farms to ensure they get the best vegetables? And for that matter, knowing which ones are best when they see it? That’s what top chefs do. You can have the same recipe for a great fish/vegetable dish that they do. Yours won’t taste as good because you don’t get the best ingredients. Never mind your failure to get up at 4 AM to find them. Music is no different. If you don’t know, can’t afford, or can’t select the best musicians, producers and engineers, how is your song going to be a hit?
Follow the recipe exactly. The best chefs follow the recipe they create down to the very teaspoon. Down to the very second. You might add just a half teaspoon too much. Or keep a dish in the pan for 30 seconds too long. The dish may taste good, but is it great? Just having the recipe and following it may not be enough. You have to be meticulous, exact and accurate. It also helps to practice it many times and see how you get it wrong before you get it right. Just following the recipe doesn’t yield a great dish.
Practice until it’s second nature. A chef can have a dish with the right recipe and ingredients and it still doesn’t come out perfectly. For that, it needs to be made with such ease that it’s second nature. The best chefs practice and make the dish repeatedly so that perfection is a foregone conclusion. Along the way, the recipe gets slight tweaks to achieve greatness. Have you practiced to the point of performing with your eyes closed? Does the song feel effortless because you’ve already played it 500 times? All key points to a hit.
Please don’t buy my books if you think that’s all it takes to make a hit. It’s not. You need to commit to it all. Learn how to get the best elements and insist for the best. Make sure you take your learnings and be exact in their execution. Practice until its hurts and you can’t stand. Then, and maybe then, the Futurehit.DNA elements will elevate your song to a true Top 10 hit.