A Song Is Just A Shirt

I started on the web in 1996, when websites consisted pretty much of only words on a grey background and there was no such thing as high speed internet, just dial-up connections that loaded pages literally at a snail’s pace.

There were very few, if any, message boards back then. Instead, we had newsgroups that you subscribed to through your email software. I joined a group called rec.music.makers.songwriting in the hopes of connecting with other songwriters and maybe even exposing some of my own material. People would post things, just like on message boards, and others would respond. It wasn’t as nasty as it is now on places like Twitter, most responses were cordial.

One day, however, someone was asking about song form; should all songs have choruses, verses, bridges? Something to that effect. There were a bunch of opinions. I posted mine. I’m going from memory here, but essentially what I said is that a song can be anything you like, but it still has to have some kind of understandable form if you want someone else to listen to it or buy it. I said that a shirt still has to have a place to put your arms and your head and the rest of you, otherwise, it isn’t really a shirt. Someone responded pretty harshly, something I won’t repeat here. I’d never experienced anything like it before. It is still nothing like the abuse you often see on social media these days, but it stung.

But the reason I brought this up is because I know there are songwriters out there who push the boundaries and try to do something different, and I admire that. However, I still believe most of us have to make sure our songs like shirts; there has to be some kind of identifiable form. Otherwise, nobody is going to buy, or even like, the shirt. You can try to find a way to make a really unique shirt. There are many, many styles and colours, sizes and shapes of shirts to experiment with. But it still has to work as a shirt.

What do you think?


One thoughtful comment

  1. I’m pretty sure I’ve known you online since at least 1998 so it’s great to see you still writing about songwriting. I think most (all?) cultures consider a song as sounds that are not random and therefore have at least some discernable structure. And if you want your sounds to find an audience, it should have at least some of the identifying characteristics of a song that you mentioned. Just my $.02US.

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