“This song makes me feel better.” “I didn't realize how much I needed to hear this song until I heard it.”
Comments like these on my YouTube video for the ballad, “Epiphany,” helped me to realize that songs are extremely impactful out there in cyberspace. Lyrics affect people.
As I poured out my soul writing this song in my home studio, I saw it as my own personal expression – my art – that maybe only a few people would hear. After all, the musical style is far from what’s popular, and it was the last song on the album. A surprise to me, it turned out that my personal struggles, and the ultimate acceptance of my inability to control events, resonated with a lot of people.
The point is that you never know who will hear your music. Maybe only a handful of people will hear it, or maybe millions will hear it. The unpredictability of a song’s reach is a product of the streaming era, especially with platforms like TikTok, where content can go viral in a heartbeat. Also, under current standards, content posted on the Internet is forever, unless you specifically take it down. Forever is a long time. So, the potential reach over time of your music content is enormous.
As a creator in a digital world, streaming platforms and the Internet give you a megaphone, essentially. People will hear your music. You have the mic, and maybe there’s only a couple people in the back of the room, or maybe there’s a stadium full of people listening to what you have to say.
You’re standing there holding the bullhorn pointed out at the world. What are you going to say? Does it matter how many people are listening? I don’t think so.
Your influence is your influence, regardless of how many listeners absorb it. To think that your words don’t affect people somehow is unrealistic. For example, a bitter, vindictive song might get the one person in the back of a lonely room riled up about their own resentments, and then leave feeling crappy. Alternatively, other words you speak into your megaphone could make people think, bring them up, or give them confidence. It’s all up to you. It’s your art, and it’s your decision.
Your Creative Choices
Your freedom of speech is undisputed. No one says you have to write idealistic lyrics or perform covers that foster kindness and world peace. But consider the intentions for creating a song. Is the intention to sell a few records or gain streams by putting out cynical, misogynistic or angry music to resonate with the rampant negativity or backwards priorities so prevalent in society? Are songwriters looking to make a buck or gain fame by hopping on a bandwagon that’s bumping down a dark, misguided path? If you think that society on the whole is in a good place emotionally, just look at some comment sections on any popular Internet post. There’s a lot of pain out there.
The way I see it, we can either make music that is AT the level of popular culture, or make music that’s a little ABOVE it. In other words, we can tap into and reflect back the meanness, and unhealthy stuff, or we can rise above it in our music and offer things that feel good. We can choose to speak to people’s good sides rather than their bad sides. It’s your call, but the broader effect of song lyrics on people is something to be aware of as you create and perform music.
When I started performing music, I was totally unaware of the weight of lyrics and how they hit people. After all, I was an instrumentalist before I was a singer. I connected with the music in songs before I gave much thought to the lyrics. That, I found, is not the way most people hear music.
Early on, I was playing a solo acoustic gig at a lovely little outdoor bistro in Northern Michigan – the resort town of Mackinac Island. I had just finished playing a cover song, and one of the guests came up to me and said “nice song” with a blatantly sarcastic tone. I realized that he was criticizing my song choice, because the lyrics were somewhat negative, and he was there to enjoy his vacation.
This brings up the question, “Who are you making music for? Yourself? Or others?” Personally, I believe it’s a delicate dance of being true to ourselves, yet also considering how listeners might be affected. I don’t believe we should sacrifice our authenticity one bit. I think we, as creators, are most powerful when we’re being boldly genuine.
So, if we’re authentic, do we choose to complain, be self-pitying, or vengeful with our megaphone? After all, our feelings are real and legit, right? Or, do we choose our words more carefully as we speak into the mic? Again, it’s your decision. Just remember, people are listening. Some are more suggestible or vulnerable than others. Do you want to perpetuate what’s wrong with the world? Or help to make a better one by choosing your broadcasted words thoughtfully?
In the big picture, the world doesn’t need any help exploring its dark side. To consider our music’s potential effect on people – bringing out their best or their worst -- is a sign of caring about our listeners as people. Music artists have immense power. What will you say with your megaphone?
Singer-songwriter Angela Predhomme’s music has been heard by millions through television, film, radio and streaming. Her soulful songs have been featured in the popular Hallmark movie “Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane,” Lifetime’s hit show “Dance Moms,” commercials for ING Bank and Fiat, and more.