SONG FEEDBACK AT A CHAPTER MEETING
It is important to know the songwriter's specific goal for the song they submit for feedback. Giving feedback to members helps them assess where they are in their writing process and gives them advice on ways they can re-arrange or change elements in their songs so they can reach their specific songwriting goals.
When the goal of the song is purely for personal enjoyment, therapy, gratification, etc. and not for commercial application, the feedback provided is much different than the feedback that would be given for a song written for commercial success.
While general songwriting rules still apply (Do the lyrics tie together well throughout the song, is there a clear story line, does the melody match the mood of the song, etc.), feedback is much more subjective with songs solely "written for the heart."
In these instances, ask the writer how they like the song. Did the song meet their need when they sat down to write it? Keep in mind that the feedback you give requires knowing the difference and intention between songs that are "written for the heart" and "written for radio."
BALANCING HONEST FEEDBACK WITH ENCOURAGEMENT
When providing honest, quality song feedback, it is essential to remember that feedback is an opinion and there is no need knit pick and call attention over every thing that you believe might be "wrong" with the song. There are elements in every song worthy of praise (a character in the song, a good line, an intricate melody, etc.) Beginning song feedback with a positive comment, then moving to the more constructive assessments, and ending with an encouraging statement can bolster your feedback.
If a songwriter's goal is to have their song placed for sync, film and tv, your song feedback will look different. Songs for sync are typically more open and vague lyrically so that it's not focused on specifics and can reach and be applied to larger audiences/scenes. It is important to note that songs submitted for sync are typically already produced as a full demo.
Familiarity with the marketplace can help deliver advice based on the current standard during song feedback. For example, commercial radio still brings in some of the most significant revenue in the music industry, so knowing what is on the radio helps to provide great feedback to a songwriter whose goal is to have commercial success, including genres you would not typically listen to—trends in music change. Successful professional songwriters in all genres who have managed to have longevity have experienced success because they understand the value of being aware of current and foreseeing future trends.
SONGS ARE SUBJECTIVE
Songwriting is subjective. One person's feedback will be different from another person's feedback. If you keep hearing the same suggestion, consider what was mentioned and experiment to see if the changes help to elevate the song. The most significant difference in professional songwriters and those trying to get to that level is the ability to edit their material. It is essential to know when to let go of an idea and when to spend time working on it. Your opportunities for commercial success will be more proportionate if you are willing to receive feedback and discern your song's value. Alan Shamblin and Tom Douglas worked patiently on "The House That Built Me" for years. There were elements from the first co-write on that song that deserved hard work and time. And they knew that. The final version was vastly different from its starting point and SO worth the time and effort put into not rushing it.
The music industry will respond to a great idea or song concept they have yet to hear. A big challenge for songwriters is continuing to write current songs with commercial value that are original. An example of an original idea was NSAI's 2013 Song of the Year, "I Drive Your Truck." While there were many notable songs about military service and loss in the history of country music, Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, and Jimmy Yeary, uniquely approached the expression of grief and saw radio success.
Genre varies when it comes to song feedback. When giving feedback, it's important to be familiar with all genres, so you can adjust your advice to cater to the marketplace of each. For example, the same feedback you would give on a Rock song may not be the same applied to a Gospel song. You want to provide valuable input for the songwriter that applies to their specific goals and sound.
Be intentional. If the song tells a story, refrain from using filler words just to get to the following line. Instead write lines that are in alignment towards the hook, set the verses up to paint the picture and set the hook up for a strong delivery.
A common mistake in songwriting is when the mood of the melody does not match the emotion the songwriter is trying to portray or lacks in range or uniqueness. Try having the songwriter sing or talk through their vision for the melody and help guide them where you can. Also, if you notice that the lyrics are there but maybe the melody isn't, suggest co-writing.
Excellent advice in finding potential co-writers is to find songwriters with an opposite strength than you so that your strength and talents complement each other. (Example: your strength is lyric, so it would be ideal to find a co-writer whose strength is melody and vice versa,)
Instrumentation can be essential, depending on the song. Songs talk to you. You don't want to go overboard with too many instruments/sounds and distract from the emotion and lyrics of the song. You want the music to match the sentiment and overall feel of the song.
Knowing when to demo varies depending on genre, melody, and what the goals are with the song. Speaking with an industry professional or NSAI member representative can help you evaluate your songwriting level and determine the next steps.
HAVE FUN AND SUPPORT YOUR FELLOW SONGWRITER
ALWAYS be kind and balance honest advice/feedback with encouragement. Listening to songs is fun! There is always something positive to be said! Remember that no one is an expert, music is subjective, and we're all here to help each other make great music!