Business Success


  • Written by Angela Predhomme

Music 101- A weekly series about how to succeed in music.

It seems to me that by nature, everyone is either a word person or a music person. With a background of piano lessons and school band, I was definitely a music person. Melody is my strong point. However, to be a good songwriter, I, like so many of my fellow musicians, had to learn the craft of lyric writing.

To a few, lyric writing comes naturally, but I guarantee that the best lyric writers out there have put considerable time into developing their craft. Some lyric writers are not necessarily good at melody or groove, but they can write lyrics that will cut straight to your heart and top the charts.

Collaboration is a great thing, and when we pool our strengths with people who have complementary strengths, songwriting magic happens.

However, if you’re a music creator and you want to write your own lyrics, there is a lot to learn.

The Unavoidable Lesson for Musicians

I must admit that when I started writing music, I didn’t care much about the lyrics. I know, I know. You must think I’m crazy. I guess I was. My first original song (never released) was called “Yeah.” Brilliant, right? I was just putting words over the music because that’s what people do to call it a “song.” I treated lyrics like an afterthought.

Eventually, over a period of years, I came to terms with the fact that it’s the LYRICS, not the music, that most commonly resonate with the listener.

We musicians hear music differently. We hear the melody, the groove, the chord changes, and the musicianship in a recorded performance. We FEEL music. I’m not a neurologist, but it seems like truly feeling the music, letting it take you somewhere, or following the lyrics of a story are things that happen in two completely different parts of the brain.

Fast forward to the present, I understand that the lyrics in a song are unequivocally everything. Before, I didn’t understand why some songs with less than stellar melodies were huge hits. But now, I’ve come to understand how most people hear music: words, words, words!  

The Best of Both Worlds Merges in Pop Megastars

Let’s look at a couple masters of pop: Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. They are musical people. They write memorable, solid melodies that stick in your head and appeal to a sense of music with their lovely phrasing and musical resolves.

However, both Swift and Sheeran are phenomenal lyricists. These songwriters are superstars for a reason. They have mastered BOTH the arts of lyrics and melody. This is why they are two of the top-selling artists in the world. They inspire me to strive for excellence in both of these very different aspects of songwriting.

How to Write Great Lyrics

The first step to becoming a killer lyricist is to acknowledge and accept what I did: The weight of lyrics in a song is greater than the weight of the music, no matter how good the music is.

I had to learn to hear music as a non-musician, and you should, too. This means listening to what the lyrics are saying and how those words make you feel. Do they make you feel a connection to the song? Do the lyrics get their point across clearly, or could they confuse someone who might hear the song on their streaming app and knows nothing about you?

Once you accept that lyric writing is a venerable art, you can set out on the long road to developing your own lyric writing. It’s a process. I’m still working to improve.

I strongly recommend peer-to-peer songwriting groups. There are many online or local songwriting groups. Also, you can pay a fee to be part of groups where you get coaching and feedback from professional songwriters with proven track records. If you think someone is charging too much for a critique, then keep looking. There are affordable resources that help developing songwriters.

Having your lyrics reviewed by pros will point you in the right direction, but you need to bid farewell to your ego. Honest, constructive feedback can be painful, but it’s helped me tremendously. We need to accept that our first lyrics will probably not be our best lyrics in their original state.

Revising is the air you breathe. Good songs are written, but great songs are rewritten.  

Lyrics Vary by Genre, but Standards Are High

Depending on genre, lyrics have different styles or focuses. Country and folk are lyric-centric genres that have historically relied on easy-to-follow stories. In the past, some pop and rock were more purely music-centered, with room for poetic lyrics that maybe you didn’t fully understand. That was more acceptable in the past than it is now.

I mean, look at the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 1989 hit “Give It Away Now.” Catchy as all get-out. But what exactly are they giving away? Whatever it is, they thought you should give it to your mama, your papa, and your daughter. And there is “no time for the piggies or the hoosegow.” They never say directly what they’re talking about giving away. It’s all inference or interpretation.

This kind of mystery in lyric writing is less heard in today’s popular songs. Listeners expect to know what you’re talking about. People don’t have time to figure stuff out. They want the message to be right there, with no decoding required.

Today, there is a very high standard for lyric writing. You should be saying something interesting, and you need to say it clearly. You need to deliver a first line that grabs people and makes them want to hear more. Just listen to any popular song and analyze its first line, and you’ll see it’s a strong lyric that sucks you right in.

That’s not an accident. Lyrics are your pitch to the listener, your invitation to compel them NOT to skip over a song or artist they’ve never heard. How good does it have to be if they’ve never heard it? Really good. The competition is intense.

Just Keep Writing

Writing lyrics is a skill, just like playing your instrument. Practice is the sure way to improve. I’ve written over 100 songs, and my more recent lyrics are a heck of a lot better than my first little masterpiece, “Yeah” (yes, that’s sarcastic).

For an artist or singer-songwriter, I believe the best lyrics come from an authentic place, and are communicated skillfully. What you have to say is important. What you have to say is probably relevant to a lot of other people who feel the same way.

Music listeners are just waiting to connect with someone who understands what they’re going through, shares their perspective, or is thirsty for a little inspiration coming out of their Bluetooth speaker. And the best way to reach into the listener’s heart and connect with them is by expressing your authentic self through your lyrics.

So, buy some songwriting books or read up online, join a feedback group, and keep on writing! No doubt we musician types will all keep improving our word skills if we keep applying ourselves.

Bio: 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.

Apple Music:

Music 101 A series about how to succeed in music. 

Overcoming Stage Fright: My Journey & Tips for Yours

I know about stage fright. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, where you actually can’t perform, I was a 9.5. It’s hard to believe I’m the same person who’s performed at countless gigs, and sang and played in real time on live network t...

Balancing artistry with commercial viability

“Just tell your story, as many verses as it takes.” This was advice given in a songwriting group I used to go to. This approach might work if you’re Gordon Lightfoot telling the tale of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a ship famous for its ill-fated wreckag...

Originality in Music: Innovators and Imitators

Someone once said to me, “Artists are either innovators or imitators.” Nowhere is this more true than in music.  First off, I want to make it clear that both of these paths have value. People are easily impressed with innovation. If something hasn’t...

Navigating the Gender Gap, Part 1 Advice for Men: How to Work with Women in Music

I’ve been making music for over a decade now, and there are thoughts I’m happy to share from my personal experience. The intention here is not to generalize or feed into stereotypes, but simply to offer my insight to help other music professionals ...

The New Art: Balancing Human and Synth in Music Creation

It’s a great time to be alive for indie music makers! There are many of us, maybe including you, who are creating good music out there, armed with nothing but our own ingenuity and the few dollars in our shallow pockets. But what’s the best way to ...

What No One Tells You About Being an Indie Artist: Attitude Is Everything

By far, the most common types of compliments that music artists get are on their voice, their vibe, or their music. And that’s wonderful. Compliments never get old. However, behind any successful music artist’s public face and polished sound is a b...

On Becoming a Lyricist (for Musicians)

Music 101- A weekly series about how to succeed in music. It seems to me that by nature, everyone is either a word person or a music person. With a background of piano lessons and school band, I was definitely a music person. Melody is my stron...

Music 101 - The Importance of Quality Production

Whether you have a great voice, a lyrical masterpiece or a killer instrumental performance, your track will be dead in the water out there if the production sounds amateur. High quality production is a determining factor that makes or breaks your...

Social Responsibility in Music Creation

“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 ...

We Need Each Other: The Benefits of Collaborating

A weekly series about how to succeed in music. Our society likes to promote a certain denial. Independence is seen as a noble badge of honor. The jack-of-all-trades, unless they’re a master of none, is admired. But like many creatures of this eart...

Music 101 - Opening to Creativity

A weekly series about how to succeed in music. Opening to Creativity Our Western minds love tangible, provable science. We love concrete methods and a straightforward path of doing X in order to get Y. However, mastering creativity is a bit mo...

Finding Your Calling in Music - A weekly series about how to succeed in music

For my first full-time job, I was an advertising salesperson. I wasn’t great at the job, because I politely took “no” for an answer, thinking it was the respectful thing to do. Any successful salesperson will tell you that’s not how they operat...

Music 101 A weekly series about how to succeed in music by Angela Predhomme

Be Good (or Get Good) Oh, if I had a nickel for all the times I’ve heard musicians and songwriters complain that so-and-so on the radio is not very good, or dismiss a whole genre as factory-cranked-out fluff. But the truth of the matter is that ...

Business Marketing