This is a true story. I answered a call from a potential TAXI member
last Friday. It went like this: "I'm gonna make you famous because my
band is great. The mother #%*@!$ that signs us is gonna be rich. Last
year a guy said he could get us a deal with Warner Brothers, but then
my brother quit the band, so we hired another drummer. Then he got busted
for breaking and entering so we kicked him out of the band when he started
doing his community service. Can you dig it?"
He continued "But man, we're so good. Doesn't anybody know what good music is anymore? Dig itI've been playing guitar since I was twelve. My brother started playing drums when he was nine, but he had to stop for a year when he broke his arm. Then he came back. But dig it man, we've got the goods. Can you dig it?"
can," I responded, while rolling my eyes back in my head.
"When we play
out, the chicks are all over us. That guy who had the friend at Warner
Brothers has this foxy girlfriend who used to come to all our shows
with him. She couldn't keep her eyes off me. She wants to have my baby.
I think that's why we lost the deal."
"Oh! You were
offered a deal?" I queried. "Yeah, well I'm sure we would have had a
deal if the guy's friend hadn't gotten fired."
"What was his
position at Warner Brothers?" I politely asked.
"I dunno. I
think he worked on album covers or something."
"So the guy
whose girlfriend wanted to bear your children knew a guy who worked
in the art department at Warner Brothers and you were going to get signed
by him?" I asked.
if anybody over there had heard our tape, we would have been signed
in a New York minute. Dig?"
can dig it."
My point in
recounting this little soap opera is not to make this caller look like
an idiot. The point is to show you how important communication skills
are in the music business.
the call have gone? "Hi, Michael. My name is Gary Rosen and I'm in a
four piece Triple-A band from Pompano Beach, Florida. People tell us
our music is a little bit like the Gin Blossoms, but with stronger hooks
and keyboards. We'd like to get our tape to some A&R people. Can you
All the information
I needed was in that one concise paragraph. It told me the whole story.
That may be the true essence of communicationtelling the whole story
in the shortest possible form.
the true essence. There's one very important part that I left out. Your
communication is only valid if the person on the receiving end understands
exactly what you mean. I didn't always subscribe to that notion until
an irate TAXI member brought it to my attention. Actually, I didn't
believe her at first. But when I attended a communication skills seminar
and they echoed the same sentiment, I began to pay attention.
It is your
responsibility to get your point across, not the listener's responsibility
to understand you. I'm probably a little dense. It took me a while to
understand that. Maybe the people who were telling me weren't doing
a good job!
It's true in
many aspects of daily lifeyour spouse, your kids, your boss, and the
people who listen to your songs all need you to communicate clearly.
If you don't do a good job of communicating your feelings to your spouse,
then he or she may never know how you really feel. Is she supposed to
figure it out by telepathy? Apparently 52% of the spouses never do,
and their marriages end in divorce.
your letter writing? Do you tell a story that's sure to make the reader
understand exactly what you mean, or are you simply telling the reader
what you felt? The two are not the same. A great communicator can cause
the reader to feel the same emotion that was felt while the letter was
And this, my
patient friends, leads me to my most important point. As a songwriter,
it is your responsibility to write lyrics that easily communicate your
meaning to your listener. While it may be easy for you to understand
exactly what you mean, that may not be the case for a total stranger.
All right already!
I know that hundreds of you are thinking, "Sure Michael, I can think
of plenty of songs that have been hits, and I don't have a clue what
the lyrics mean!" I'm sure there are plenty of examples of that, but
you are simply better off having lyrics that people "get."
is incredibly proficient at writing lyrics that are easy to understand.
His metaphors are eloquentthey sound deeply profound and evoke an
emotional response from the listener. And at the same time, they don't
look like brain surgery on paper.
How do you
get that good? My suggestion is to read. Then read some more. A lot
more. Very few, if any people, are born with incredible writing skills.
Like most skills, great writing is learned, then perfected by repetition.
When I started
TAXI, I needed to write the text for our first brochure. I wasn't good
enough to do it myself, so I hired a writer. He wasn't so hot either.
I set out to
learn all I could about copywriting, and lo and behold, I've gotten
better every year. I needed to learn how to tell people what they needed
to know about TAXI, not what I wanted them to know.
communication/writing skills is an ongoing process that has no real
end. You will, however, keep reaching higher levels of competency. And
every time you reach a new level, you will improve the results you get
in your life. You will also be a step ahead of your competition in every
arenahome, work, and of course, your songwriting.
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