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« MusicThinkTank.com Weekly Recap: How to Begin a Career in the Music Industry & More | Main | Basic Marketing Principles For Artists - Part 3 of 3: Increase the Amount of Money That You Charge »
Thursday
May032012

How to Choose the Best Songs for Your Album

If you’re heading into the studio to record an album, you should go in with plenty of songs to spare. Sometimes, things don’t work as well in recorded format, sometimes your tastes/ideas change. At any rate, going in with more ideas allows you to choose the very best songs for your album. Besides, it’s always better to have too many songs to choose from than not enough. But how do you decide which songs should stay and which should go?

This is what I recommend that you do: Treat it like a songwriting contest.

Create a score card for every song with all of the most important features to you. For example, areas could include: composition, arrangement, vocal melody, lyrics, catchy, dance-able, harmonic progression, execution/performance, artist merit/uniqueness, commercial viability, and so on. Pick the top five or six areas of importance to you and create a numerical ranking system. From there, sit down with your band mates, manager, producer, etc. and score every single song. At the end, the songs with the best scores stay. The ones that don’t can be used for giveaways, b-sides, fan incentives, etc.  This is an objective process to an otherwise subjective art.

You could also make this an opportunity to engage with fans as well by creating a “focus group” of your most enthusiastic listeners and allowing them to get a “sneak peak” of your new album. You could have several rounds of listening as well, since some songs to “grow” on you over time. Either way, this would help reduce the any disagreements/dissapointments among band members since it allows everyone to have an equal say over the project. Of course, if you have a producer or manager calling the shots, then this could end up very differently.

Reader Comments (10)

Me and my manager and team have constant conversations about this. It's tough because your close team is SOOO connected to all the work you do, and that can often times cloud our judgement. It is important to get outsiders with no direct connection to the song to listen and give feedback. I've found often times after putting out an album, songs I never expected to do well far outshine the top 3 me and my team thought would be successful.

May 3 | Unregistered CommenterRumorz

I find it's best to leave the choice to strangers. Last time I used pay-to-play Jango Airplay to see which songs got the most likes after a few thousand plays. Cheap insurance!

http://passivepromotion.com/the-jango-focus-group

Brian - true, though when you're still in the mixing/mastering phase (prior to album release or even sequencing), you'll usually want the decisions made prior to releasing it. Using a service like that after to help determine a single can be a great option though.

May 11 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Tam

I just used rough masters to figure out which three songs to omit. I'd probably do it again with the finals to determine a single, if I did singles.

Hi<

I just went through this process over the weekend with my personal band and it was great. We invited people in the music industry (from licensing to legal to publicity) as well as some of our die-hard fans and made a little party out of it.

One thing I'd like to add after doing this: after you go through the songs, repeat the first song and score it again. Often times, the first song will have naturally lower scores due to the nature of it.

May 14 | Registered CommenterSimon Tam

suggestion, add a song or three from a songwriter who has a good song but a so-so recording. heard some good songs from performers who aren't very good at performing nor recording. it will help build your network. i remember reading that faith hill & her producer went thru 10,000 songs to find 10 for one of her albums.

one of my fave philly bands from the 90's had a song that would fill the dance floor. when they didn't put it on their demo i asked why and they said it was just a "novelty song". sometimes musicians miss the obvious.

May 16 | Unregistered Commenterian bruce

Simon,
Thank you so much for this article! I've had such a hard time with choosing songs for and album and haven't been able to find much info online. Awesome suggestions!

Thanks for the article! Enjoyed it. In conjunction with these thoughts, there is also the subject of arrangement edits or even re-writes. Many songs come my way that have elements of greatness, but need a bridge or sometimes, more development on the hook itself. Sometimes it's about "the way" a singer delivers the vocal, or perhaps some added parts - backing vocals, instrumentation etc. Thing is, so many artists don't want to give up control, but at the same time they shoot themselves in the foot, because a good producer can really make a difference in deciding which song has more promise than the other. Even major acts like Train and Maroon Five understand this well, as it's their producers that continually re-invent their sound and keep it relevant.

November 16 | Unregistered CommenterHugh Hession

I may not be in the music industry but I do think that choosing the best song for your album is a very difficult task. I do agree that it is better to have several songs to choose from than not enough. However, if I were to have an album, which is quite impossible, I would give more attention to the lyrics than the melody. I am just that, more into the story of the song. Anyway, this post will certainly be very helpful for emerging artists.

August 27 | Unregistered CommenterV-Picks

I Executive produce a Young 19-year-old RnB singer work. We did a independent album which
Consisted of 12 songs, we originally had 86 songs to choose from. Literally we spent 4hours deciding which songs would and wouldn't make the album, the process we used was old fashioned public perception, it worked a treat! However we spent a substantial amount of money in the development,recording, and marketing of the album. As we are independent we did benefit in the long-term but it may be another 18months- 2 years before I can fund another project for the young upcoming singer.

April 23 | Unregistered CommenterBob

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