Target Writing – what is it and why do it?
As a songwriter, it’s easy to get frustrated. One of the most frustrating times in a songwriter’s development is when you’re writing good songs, but not getting anything cut yet.
If you’re not following the terminology so far, you’ll want to get yourself up to speed with basic songwriter and music business jargon by reading our workbooks.
If you’re feeling the frustration we’re talking about, it may be that target writing can help you power through to the next level.
There are two basic types of songwriting: 1) writing the song in the room, and 2) target writing.
When you’re just getting started, you’re most likely writing the song in the room.
That means that you pick up your pencil, and start writing the first best thing that comes to mind. Or maybe you’re starting with an instrument or melody first. The point is that you’re writing whatever, not something specific you set out to write.
The next stage of writing is when you do have a purpose in mind when you start writing, but it’s most likely an emotion or feeling you want to express. This is the beginning of writing to a seed or writing to a hook, which is a more advanced style of writing. It still isn’t considered target writing, because your main purpose is to express the feeling or idea, not to write a specific kind of song.
If you’re able to write to a hook, you’re ready to try target writing.
Target writing is what professional hit songwriters do to help them stay in business.
When you write professionally, either for yourself or for a music publishing company, you’re required to write songs that are appropriate for the commercial market.
That means, you have to write songs that recording artists would be willing to record and put out on the radio.
If you’re not writing those kinds of songs, then you’re most likely not going to be getting signed to a publishing deal. Publishers make a living through getting songs recorded or placed in movies. If you’re only writing 7 minute artsy fartsy songs, you’re most likely still writing the song in the room, and that’s fine, but don’t expect music publishers to be lining up at the coffeehouse open mic to sign you.
Now, if you’re serious about wanting to write songs as a profession, you’ll want to try your hand at target writing to see if you even like it.
Pick an artist, any artist. You’ll want to pick someone who is alive and still making albums, that’s important, too.
Next, you’ll want to explore their songs. What are this artist’s biggest hits? What is her current single? What is the genre? How many beats per minute does the majority of her songs have? What key?
At Songpreneurs, we have a proprietary system of doing this kind of work called the 7 Steps Song Analysis™, part of our Write Brain Song Crafting Method™.
You can download the article explaining the system, along with a worksheet to help you apply it here in our shop.
Now that you’ve identified some of the core elements of the songs recorded by this artist, you can try your hand at target writing.
Target writing is not copying.
When you’re copying, which is a despicable practice engaged in by some less scrupulous film and television music supervision houses looking for “sound-alikes,” you’re actually plagiarizing – read – stealing from other artists.
Target writing is not this.
Target writing is honing your songwriting skills to the point where you can point and direct them toward writing the desired type of song.
You don’t have to just hop on and hold on to write the song in the room.
With target writing you’re actually shaping the song, and making sure that you’re staying within commercially acceptable, desirable parameters for a particular artist.
If you think that target writing sounds inhibiting, you’re right in some ways.
If you think it sounds exciting and full of opportunity, you’re also right.
The trick is being able to target write, and then balance it with writing your own thing from time to time to stretch your creative and artistic boundaries.
At the upcoming Songpreneurs Songwriting Retreat we’ll be learning how to target write step by step, including providing assignments for target writing toward current commercial opportunities in the marketplace.
Are you ready to step up to the next level? Learn more about the Retreat here >>