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Writing For Specialty Markets

By Jason Blume

In addition to writing mainstream pop, country and R&B songs, there are many other genres songwriters might choose to explore. These include writing Christian, Latin, Christmas, folk/Americana, comedy, cabaret, and children's songs.

When gearing a song to any specific market, it's important to remember that some lyrical and musical elements lend themselves to certain styles of songs and are quite inappropriate for others. For example: while poetic, offbeat, non-linear lyrics may work well in an alternative pop or rock song, they'd be out of place in a children's song or a country song. It's important to use vocabulary and colloquialisms consistent with the genre you're writing for.

When writing for specialty markets, the primary motivation needs to be a deep love of the music because these styles of music are rarely as lucrative as the mainstream markets.

Christmas Songs

Christmas songs are typically recorded from December to July, prior to the Christmas season when they are released. Depending on schedules, some artists record their Christmas albums during the Christmas holidays for the following year.

If the album is one of those recorded live during Christmas, with a choir and orchestra, the songs are typically selected by the previous August or September, which is 15-16 months prior to the album's release. The bulk of country Christmas albums are completed by the end of May, while pop and R&B Christmas albums are sometimes recorded through the July prior to their Christmas season release. Any reputable publisher should be aware of which artists are recording Christmas albums--and should be capable of getting material to those artists or to those who screen songs for them.

The majority of songs recorded on Christmas albums are standards. A large percentage of the original songs are written by the artist, the producer or another individual "inside" the project. Your Christmas song must be incredible enough to make the artist or producer bump one of the standards or their original songs to put yours on. There are only so many Christmas images out there, so you have to work extra hard to craft fresh, unique lyrics in order to have your song rise above the competition.

Lyric Checklist

Photocopy this checklist and keep it where you normally write. Each time you finish a draft of a song, check to be sure that it has successfully incorporated the tools and techniques that follow:

  1. Adheres to one of the most successful song structures.
  2. Has an interesting title and idea.
  3. Has a universal theme--not too personal for others to relate to.
  4. Makes the singer look good.
  5. Has verse lyrics that clearly lead to the title.
  6. Contains one focused idea.
  7. Evokes one emotion.
  8. Maintains one consistent tense.
  9. Uses correct pronouns.
  10. Contains opening lines that grab the listener & set the emotional tone.
  11. Maintains one consistent tone and style throughout.
  12. Uses fresh imagery.
  13. Sounds conversational
  14. Avoids clichés.
  15. Is not redundant.
  16. Second verse adds new information.
  17. Doesn't preach.
  18. Doesn't tell how the singer feels--the listener feels it.
  19. Bridge (if applicable) adds a new angle.
  20. Each line logically flows from the previous line into the following line.
  21. Employs rhyme in appropriate places.
  22. Has a title that "pays off."