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What Makes People Like A Song?

What Makes People Like A Song?
By Mthokozisi Mabhena • Issue #3 • View online
Getting people to listen to your song is very easy, you can join many “Quick-Get-Listen” schemes out there. However, getting a listen gets you attention, but does not retain it. You need to ask, what should I do to get people to like my song? I hope this meandering train of thought helps you in answering that. All the best!

In the course of human history, millions of songs have been made. Some have only been heard by the creators of the song. In fact, the majority have only been heard by the creators of the songs and a few close friends. Contrary to what many might believe, a very few select elite songs have made it to national, continental or global fame.
This phenomenon is true for other works of art. Because you only watch YouTube videos with at least a million views, you assume that most YouTube videos have that kind of views. But those are the elite abnormally. The majority of Youtube videos are just below 100 views on average. The point I am trying to put across is this: in any creative sector, there are very few creative endeavours that rise to the top; the majority of creative work dies with little to no consumption.
What makes people listen to a song?
The original title of this article was ‘what makes people listen to a song?’ And I quickly figured out that this is a very easy question to answer. For people to listen to your song, they just need to know you or know someone who knows you or know someone who looks familiar to you or know someone familiar to them who listen to the song etc. Basically, getting people to listen is not the key or the answer you should be seeking, as the “support local artist” movement is doing. But you should be trying to get people to like your song.
What makes people like a song?
Basically, people like songs for two reasons: the sound of it and the message, that is, how these evoke emotion to the listener. If your song does not evoke any emotions in the listener, it will die before it is born.
On The Sound. I am obviously not a musician. I am speaking as a listener to music. Your sound should be melodious and moving. That is, it should elicit a very specific emotion. Your song should sound good in any of the sounds you have decided to go with. If it is a sad song, it should be a sad song that sounds good to listen to as a sad song. If it is a club/party/happy song, it should sound good as a club/party/happy song. Uninspiring, chaotic, non-melodious music is not great to listen to (except for specific genres).
On The Message. If your song is message-based, you should be clear on the message you are sending. People should be able to answer the simple question: ‘what is this song about?’ I do not mean that your song should be a dissertation on what you are speaking about, but it should be clear. More importantly, your message should be consistent with the market you are trying to reach and the emotion you are trying to evoke. (What I mean here is that the choice of language should reflect the demography of the people you seek to serve, there is a difference between street slang, urban slang, bourgie slang and Christian slang - your language/diction tells the listener “this is for you” or “this is not for you”).
A good song is about moving people, and in general, people listen to the sound/melody/beat to be moved before they listen to the words (except the niche music genres like sad songs and church songs). As a reference, people liked the sound of Despacito, Gangnam Style, Y-tjukutja, Jerusalema and Neria before they crammed and later translated the words. As Eminem once said ‘fvck the words, you don’t listen to them anyway’.
To wrap up, people like songs because the song is melodious/ enjoyable/ sonically good (is that a word?) and relatable. What makes the song enjoyable is the sound of it and the production of it (including the beat). What makes the song relatable is the lyrics (message of it). And when combined, you create amazing and generous work.
Let’s go create some amazing work!
See you tomorrow!
Did you enjoy this issue?
Mthokozisi Mabhena

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