Does Your Hook Raise Its Hand?

April 19, 2017
When you send your song to the Songtuner’s “Pitch to Pro Pipeline” for feedback, the first category my publishers/song pluggers and producers will rate is “Hook/Title.” If you’ve done a good job writing the title of your song, they will mark “#1. Hook is original and compelling!”

Does your hook Raise its hand? If not, your song may never make it out of the CD case and into a publisher’s or a producer’s CD player.

After years of working in the music industry, one of the earliest lessons I learned is you have to know how to make your song attractive to music industry professionals before they even listen to it. Debbie Zavitson, founder of Debbie Z Entertainment, once commented on a song I was playing for her by saying “This hook just isn’t raising its hand.” When I asked her to clarify, she said “If I have 25 CDs of new songs on my desk that I need to listen to, I’ll go to the CD where the hook is so compelling it seems to be screaming at me: “Pick Me, Pick Me!’”

Now, imagine multiplying that number of CDs by one hundred or more. That’s probably how many pitches producers like Scott Hendricks (Blake Shelton’s producer and head of Warner Music Nashville) get every single week. They have their favorite writers, so they will always listen to those songs no matter what the title is. But for the undiscovered writer, a song called “With You” for example, is probably not going to be as attention grabbing as something like “Whiskey’s Daughter” which is something unusual and begging him to listen to it. Having that intriguing and unique element to your title means you have a better chance of getting your CD out of Scott’s basket at the door and maybe up onto his desk and then hopefully into his CD player instead of a trash can.

Here are four tips to help you come up with a unique hook!

1. Make it Unusual – A title like Jon Pardi’s “Head Over Boots” is unique and fun – and much more original that the traditional “Head Over Heels” cliché.

2. Keep it short! – One word titles are always intriguing! “Fix” by Chris Lane is a great example.

3. Make it ‘Visual’ – A title like “Stop Sign” is more compelling than simply calling it “Stop.”

4. Keep the Language Current – “Wasted” is much more conversational today than “bombed,” which is old fashioned and dated sounding.

Remember: A killer melody and incredible lyric is what ultimately sells your song. However, it may never get heard if it never gets out of the CD pile. The hook is the introduction to your song and in many cases will determine whether your song will get played or stay sitting sit in a pile collecting dust. So the next time you sit down to write, ask yourself this question: is my hook raising its hand and screaming “Pick me, please pick me!’”?

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