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#1125728 - 03/23/17 12:42 PM Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme??  
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Donna Dutchess Offline
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Does EVERY song have to be about love??? What happened to uniqueness?? I know I"m a child of the '60's but I remember songs like "Eleanor Rigby", "All the Lonely People", "Horse with no name": they weren't about love. They were unique and they are now classics. I just finished a new song "I've Got A New Song" and was told by a publisher that if it wasn't about love, NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR IT!! What are your thoughts? Check out my song and tell me your thoughts.

http://donnadutchessmusic.com/track/1208437/i-ve-got-a-new-song


https://donnadutchessmusic.com/
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#1125733 - 03/23/17 02:26 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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Donna,

Like always, you can write whatever you want. But you have to determine what your use for a song is. If you are interested in commercial applications, love, the loss of love, the desire for love, etc is just about the most desired thing in songs. Pretty simple reason, because that is what everybody wants. They see everything bad in the world every day in their lives, on television, movies, internet, pretty much a steady diet of doom, gloom, hatred and anger. So love is the thing most people are looking for.

Artists need love songs to attract the opposite sex to their brand. That is what sells records, t shirts, fan clubs, personal appearances. Basically, love is what PAYS THE BILLS. The women who go for a certain male singer wish they could be with that singer. He is singing to THEM. Same with females, although they tend to be pissed off and while anger does sell a little,it also burns out easily. But the female singers, love to do the ACSS (Angry Chick Singer Syndrome) and that does explain why they sell less than one sixth of male artists. Trying to get a girl a record deal right now is right up there with popularizing the EBOLA virus In a business, where NOBODY is selling records, females are selling even less. They are so busy peddling anger, they never stop to think that guys already have all the anger they can deal with in their own lives. Either deservedly so or not so.

The songs you mention, "Eleanor Rigby", (All the Lonely People) (I think you are talking about the same song) and "Horse with No Name", all were written by the artists themselves and were released after they already have classic careers going. The Beatles were well into their run as the most popular band in history before they released theirs. Sure, they had different songs, WHEN I'M SIXTY FOUR, MAXWELL'S SILVER HAMMER, MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR, DAY IN THE LIFE, But their other songs, "All You Need is Love" Please Please Me" Saw Her Standing there", Revolution, Come Together, etc. all VASTLY outsold all their challenging different songs. Basically LOVE was the biggest theme of the Beatles entire career. And even their solo stuff, IMAGINE, SOMETHING IN THE WAY SHE MOVES, etc. are mostly all about LOVE. That is why the Broadway and Vegas show with Cirque Sole' was titled "LOVE."

"HORSE WITH NO NAME", was like many songs of that era, tail end of the 60's into the 70's singer/songwriter groups. America was known for their harmonies and so the NAH, NAH, NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH.....part probably sold that record far more than any thing about some pony running around in the desert. People could care less about any story of that. And their other songs, "Sister Golden Hair", "Ventura Highway", etc. made the way for "Riderless horse nobody knows the name of" song. Actually what America sold was SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA in the 1970's. That, and a few hits of acid, and a nice drive down the Coast, A1A, would have you singing about anything. Worked for the Beach Boys and all the California sound groups of that era.
When it comes to questioning about why certain songs work, you can never separate THE ERA AND THE TIMES for certain songs and artists. They worked when they worked and they might never have worked if it wasn't for all the other things that are around them. Of if those certain songs were released in a certain order, they may have never gone anywhere outside some random cassette tapes in somebody's attic.

So, sure you can write obscure songs that are not about love, people do it all the time. But what is going to be interesting about YOUR obscure songs about odd things, over an ARTIST'S own songs about odd things that THEY experience? And that is the overall thing about this business. If you are trying to get your songs to someone else, you are going to have do something they can't do themselves or do it in a way they have not done. The subject matter has to appeal to them. You will find the love song is the single most appealing thing to artists. Always have to please your audience first, or you don't have an audience. That is the primary reason for WRITING SONGS WITH THE ARTISTS in the first place. The rest is just trying to put your words into other people's mouths. In this day and age, that is a pretty hard sell.

MAB

#1125734 - 03/23/17 02:31 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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PS: ELEANOR RIGBY" is actually ABOUT the LACK OF LOVE and people trying to FIND LOVE. That is the point of the song. So even in your example, love is part of the subject matter in that one. Funny how that works. You will find the majority of songs in history are about love in one form or another.

#1125736 - 03/23/17 02:53 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Trollboy 1 Offline
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If the publisher doesn't like your song then you won. Thats a surefire sign its good. If the publisher loves your song it probably sucks,

#1125737 - 03/23/17 03:31 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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There's some truth to that. Publishers are there for the very reason to COMMERCIALLY EXPLOIT creative works. If you bring them something that is non-commercial, in their opinion, it does no one any good. So from a creative standpoint ,that might be true. From a career standpoint, not so much so. But you can always have songs for your own collection, enjoyment and sharing with others. Not every song is meant to be a pitchable song. Again, just depends on what your intention for a song is. If it is not a commercial entity, you shouldn't expect someone who HAS to have commercial entities, to embrace it.

#1126020 - 03/30/17 11:58 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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niteshift Offline
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Hey Donna,

Answer : If it's not universal OR unique, it won't do any good. It'll end up in the basket of white noise like 99% of songs ever written.

If however, it's universal AND unique, you can start picking out the colour of your Maserati smile

cheers, niteshift

#1126026 - 03/30/17 04:18 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Kolstad Offline
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I guess that depends on what they are "publishing". Say in heavy metal there are lots of songs about drugs, rebellion, death, politics and much more. That is the most popular genre of music world wide, so it is absolutely not true that a song has to be about love. See https://www.dailydot.com/upstream/heavy-metal-fans-most-loyal-spotify/

Personally I prefer instrumental jazz, which also does not have any sort of universal lyrics, but of course is much more niche ;-)


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#1126042 - 03/31/17 08:59 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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Well, you can start picking out the color of your Matchbook or Hot wheels TOY Maserati.

An interesting excercise for Donna or anyone interested in "theme's" might want to go to YOU TUBE, pull up the TOP 10 SONGS of any particular Genre, country, pop, rock, blues, etc. You will usually find between 8 and 9 of those songs totally about LOVE. Either wanting love, getting love, or losing and wanting love. Now, it can also be about love in different ways, love for a loved one, family, friends, etc. But Love is the most primary issue ever being sung about.

Personally, I write about a thousand things OTHER than love. It is part of what I teach when working with artists or up and coming writers. Showing them how to approach other subjects BESIDES love, is a very good excercise. Having songs about inanimate objects, a house, towns, cities, some family heirloom, LIFE LESSONS, situations that happen to us on an every day basis, etc. Something that is NOT about love is a good way to find alternative approaches on life.
Since most artists have nothing BUT love in their catalogues, so if your goal is to get cuts or write with artists, it is a good idea to help them find something they DON'T have. publishers might not be interested in it but artists like to have other things that most people don't think of.

A couple of years ago in Nashville, two pairs of brothers, The Warrens' and the Beavers, set out to write "the dumbest song possible about an inanimate object."
They were looking around the room for something silly to write about, and one was drinking out of a "red solo cup."
They wrote that as a joke. Toby Keith heard it at a party and cut it. It became a pretty big hit.
RED SOLO CUP, I DRINK YOU UP, LET'S HAVE A PARTY!!!!

So it doesn't hurt to have other things in your catalogue. Sometimes they might just be the DOOR OPENER that you need. Never know what you're gonna need.

MAB

#1126080 - 03/31/17 11:44 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Brian Austin Whitney Online content
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In a word: No

In a paragraph: You should always write about what you know in your own life. Sincerity in topic matters whether it is rap or country (actually, especially in those two). Some genres are about production however and in those cases only a catchphrase chorus, a hummable melody and a butt kicking production matters. In the end, write what you do best, whatever that is, and keep getting better by moving forward, not clinging to the same collection of songs. When what you do well meets what people like, then you can please both yourself AND your fans, but if it is either/or,choose pleasing yourself so that your music and the journey while making it will always pay off whether or not commerce ever enters the picture!

Brian


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#1126081 - 04/01/17 04:34 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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TC Perkins Offline
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I just go with inspiration and write about whatever is moving me at that point in time.

Songs can be anything you want them to be. Granted, love is probably the number 1 theme but there are as many types of songs as there are types of people. This doesn't mean everything you might write is commercially viable but my philosophy is "just write and let the chips fall where they may." There are certainly some strange and wonderful tunes out there that became classic hits because the artist left the beaten path (Bohemian Rhapsody comes to mind). Sometimes it's fun to just push the boundaries; even if that particular song doesn't turn out great, you learn something about yourself as a songwriter that may just help you write that next song.

Peace,
TC


If it has strings I will find a way to play it!

You can hear my tunes at https://soundcloud.com/tc-gypsy
#1128087 - 05/29/17 02:39 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Pat Hardy Offline
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Originally Posted by Donna Dutchess
Does EVERY song have to be about love??? What happened to uniqueness?? I know I"m a child of the '60's but I remember songs like "Eleanor Rigby", "All the Lonely People", "Horse with no name": they weren't about love. They were unique and they are now classics. I just finished a new song "I've Got A New Song" and was told by a publisher that if it wasn't about love, NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR IT!! What are your thoughts? Check out my song and tell me your thoughts.

http://donnadutchessmusic.com/track/1208437/i-ve-got-a-new-song


I think it's like this, if you are into 'uniqueness', then it's about you, or your group ( The Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, etc ). If you want to sell songs to a publisher, then, to get your foot in the door, they only want to play it safe, so songs about love, if they are good, will always sell on the bubblegum pop genre. In the 30s, or was it the 40s, there was a song "I've Heard That Song Before", but it didn't become a big hit, so songs about songs is probably not that good of an idea, unless it is FUNNY, then it's a 'novelty song' and for a novelty song to sell, it really has to be clever, funny, etc. Remember Tie Me Kangaroo Down? Yeah, that good.

#1128088 - 05/29/17 02:40 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: niteshift]  
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Pat Hardy Offline
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Originally Posted by niteshift
Hey Donna,

Answer : If it's not universal OR unique, it won't do any good. It'll end up in the basket of white noise like 99% of songs ever written.

If however, it's universal AND unique, you can start picking out the colour of your Maserati smile

cheers, niteshift


I think it's more like 99.999999% of all songs written.

#1128123 - 05/31/17 03:58 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Brian Austin Whitney Online content
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Actually in today's market it should be painfully personal, diabolically funny and self deprecating, or about the love of your life told in a stunning way, not lame ass 3rd grade predictability. Then you find your TRUE audience and you connect with them. If it is 10 people, you work on making it 20. Each week you add 10 more. In 5 years you have enough true fans of YOUR work to make an honest full time living off your music. If you're a bit more talented and you can reach more, you'll be a successful small business person in 5 years. If you kick some butt, you could be huge at 10K+ fans. But you can be a long time musical success with 5K fans. If you aren't willing to put 5 hard focused, relentless years into your career to build that fan base, then you're not worthy of a living from your music. It's that bluntly real. You can still MAKE all the music you want, but you'll know your lack of success rests solely in your own lap.

Brian


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"Don't sit around and wait for success to come to you... it doesn't know the way." -Brian Austin Whitney


#1128124 - 05/31/17 09:01 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Brian Austin Whitney]  
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Barry David Butler Online content
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Barry David Butler  Online Content
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That's the Best Advise I've ever heard Brian.
This is what I try and do.....
I get personal with my Fans and talk about the Story behind each of my songs especially on My Facebook Page on Barry Butler.
I have separate Pages for many of my Thought Provoking Songs and ask Questions....SO I am not looking to write and record "HIT SONGS" per say....but songs that will Touch My Fans in a Personal Way....Barry...

#1128141 - 05/31/17 11:17 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Martin Lide Online content
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Martin Lide  Online Content
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No. A song can be about anything. You could re-write the same song 50 times and then trash all of it. No one is hurt and somewhere in that you may find..your voice.

If Blake Shelton ever asked you to write him a song...then narrow the focus, re-read MABs post here and write for him.

Unless and until...write for you.

#1128195 - 06/02/17 09:41 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Ted Martin Offline
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Ted Martin  Offline
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Oregon
If others think your song is a turd then polish it up so bright and shiny that the light reflecting off of it blinds them to the fact that it's a turd. (insert maniacal laughter here)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiJ9fy1qSFI

#1128212 - 06/04/17 11:02 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Marc Barnette Offline
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Marc Barnette  Offline
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Making money in music is about SALES. How many copies can you get someone to PAY FOR?
How many "butts in the seats" can you be responsible for?
How relevant is your music to the LISTENING AUDIENCE?

People look at record companies, producers, publishers, etc. as the END all to END ALL in music success. They seem to think there is this magic fairy that floats down and annoints some artist or writer and they become all rich and famous.
Or set up some social networking site and the masses will just FLOCK to their incredible music and suddenly the checks come ROLLING IN!!!

TOTAL HOGWASH!!!
It is about YOU. What YOU can engineer for yourself and your music.

I STRONGLY AGREE with Brian's "find 10, 20, 500, 1000, 5000, on and on and on amount of people who BELIEVE IN YOU AND YOUR MUSIC. That is what will make you a success.

Worry about the rest, record companies, producers, getting cuts, etc. when you have to.
For now, write songs, find artists, do as much YOURSELF that you can.

Let the rest take care of itself.

MAB

#1128213 - 06/04/17 11:05 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Marc Barnette]  
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Barry David Butler Online content
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Barry David Butler  Online Content
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Sebring, Florida USA
It's Capitalism and Free Enterprise......WE can do all this now.

#1128597 - 06/20/17 05:58 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Pat Hardy Offline
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Pat Hardy  Offline
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Posts: 545
Originally Posted by Donna Dutchess
Does EVERY song have to be about love??? What happened to uniqueness?? I know I"m a child of the '60's but I remember songs like "Eleanor Rigby", "All the Lonely People", "Horse with no name": they weren't about love. They were unique and they are now classics. I just finished a new song "I've Got A New Song" and was told by a publisher that if it wasn't about love, NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR IT!! What are your thoughts? Check out my song and tell me your thoughts.

http://donnadutchessmusic.com/track/1208437/i-ve-got-a-new-song


Well, you're right, it doesn't have to be, based on historical evidence,but all the songs
you mentioned were so strong that they overcame that particular complaint.

"Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", it was a rather quick hit for the writer. But, the song was strong.

And, on the song, "You Light Up My Life", obviously universal lyrics on a strong melody, it was turned down by 113 publishers before the 114th publisher said yes.

So, I wouldn't be discouraged on the opinion of one publisher/producer, etc.

If you are going to write a song that doesn't have a universal theme, it had better have an extremely strong melody and lyric, so much so, they just can't say no.

Last edited by Pat Hardy; 06/20/17 06:02 PM.
#1128617 - 06/21/17 01:25 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Dave Rice Online content
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Dave Rice  Online Content
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Texas
Hi Donna:

Even though this is a pretty old thread (if you are like me, you've probably already forgotten you asked the question... LOL!) but I'll provide my two cents worth anyway. No Maam, songs don't have to be about love... but it is probably the number one category in most genres. (Love has several definitions according to my childhood Preacher!)

Marc probably provided you with the most comprehensive and accurate answer. The man knows just about everything but he hangs our with an "old dog" and that will probably become his Achilles Heel! LOL!

All my best, ---Dave

#1128618 - 06/21/17 02:44 PM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Colin Ward Offline
Colin Ward  Offline

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Saint Petersburg. FL
Personally, I think that a shotgun blast at a general audience is a complete waste of time. None of us have the clout to get it off the ground so it doesn't matter that is has universal theme. A better strategy is a rifle shot at a particular market with which you have a connection. An example would be Parrotheads - fans of Jimmy Buffett. There is an entire subculture of people attempting to follow in his footsteps. Their songs might be about boats, beaches, margaritas or love, but they are targeting those fans, some successfully. No doubt there are a ton of other subcultures - blues, country/pickup trucks, politics, you name it.


Colin

I try to critique as if you mean business.....

http://colinwardmusic.com/

http://rosewoodcreekband.com/


#1129215 - 07/22/17 05:50 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Joanne8 Offline
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Joanne8  Offline
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Joined: Jul 2017
Posts: 6
Hi.

I'm new on the forum and just wanted to say what an eye opening thread. I'm fairly new to writing songs. I began a few years ago when my mum died and left me her piano. Song writing was the only way of learning the piano that didn't make me want to bang my head on the keys. Having looked at various commercial music industry blogs I know that's not something I would want to be involved in. So I'm happy to just to inflict my songs on family and friends and any hapless browsers who may stumble across my stuff on the net.

I take the point that music corporations are primarily business corporations and want to make money so they want universal themes, or more of the same. These interests seem to be less willing to take risks than they perhaps were in the past. I remember hearing about record labels in the 70s would allow artists to make a third album even when the first had been unsuccessful. Don't think that would happen today.

Now I'm in danger of veering into old fart territory ... but were we more adventurous listeners in the past? Or is it just the music industry's commercial sector that thinks we are? On the one hand, back in the 70s I remember watching the old grey whistle test one night when a new group called Dire Straits came on the with the "Sultans of Swing',which was about a swing band playing in an English pub. I went to school the next day and told the class about this great new band, and no one had ever heard of them. The rest is history. On the other hand, I did notice today on YouTube that a song about the universal theme of death (probably really hard to sell to a record label now) 'Dust in the Wind' by Kansas has 78 million hits. There's a lot of people on this planet, and perhaps many are more open to novel, unique and unusual ways of viewing the world than the commercial music industry thinks. Remember Kate Bush ....Wuthering Heights' About love but so different at the time.

I am just hoping that in writing songs that are meaningful and authentic to me will also be meaningful and authentic to someone else, simply because we are all human and we share emotions. I love the advice about building your audience, because it really is all about communicating and connecting. Thanks for listening, good to share thoughts.

Last edited by Joanne8; 07/22/17 05:53 AM.
#1129216 - 07/22/17 06:15 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Everett Adams Offline
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Everett Adams  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2002
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,NL Canada
Welcome Joanne8 to JPF. Most of us here are friendly, our bark is much worst than our bite.LOL


The more you taste the bitterness of defeat, the sweeter final victory will be

May the flowers of love forever bloom in your garden of life

http://www.soundclick.com/newsflashsounds

http://www.soundclick.com/newsflashgospel

www.cdbaby.com/all/eca333

www.showcaseyourmusic.com/newsflashsounds
#1129224 - 07/22/17 08:59 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Everett Adams]  
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Joanne8 Offline
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Joanne8  Offline
Casual Observer

Joined: Jul 2017
Posts: 6
Thanks Everett, much appreciated. The forum looks really interesting and helpful. I look forward to engaging with you all.

#1129226 - 07/22/17 10:18 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Joanne8]  
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Mackie H. Offline
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Mackie H.  Offline
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NASHVILLE, TN

A great song is like bread spread on the water to hungry fish: appetizing, appealing and simply dangling from the HOOK!

Mackie

#1129230 - 07/22/17 11:23 AM Re: Does a song HAVE to have a universal theme?? [Re: Donna Dutchess]  
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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Ray E. Strode  Online Content
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Joined: May 2001
Posts: 6,782
Brunswick, Ga. USA
Well,
I suppose a song, book, etc, has to have a bit of truth in it. But if you have a terrific idea for a song by all means write it!


Ray E. Strode

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