International Songwriters Association (ISA) Songs And Songwriting • Song Titles

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Founded 1967

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International Songwriters Association

Song Titles

Introduction by Jim Liddane
It's a wet day in November. You have landed your dream job in music publishing. But your boss has developed an unreasonable hatred of you, which is why right now, you are in that windowless room in the basement, sorting through hundreds of wannabe songs by wannabe songwriters, and you know, you just know, there ain't going to be a hit amongst them.

In fact, there really is no point in playing any of them.

And then - and then - you spy a song titled "They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha-Ha, They're Coming To Take Me Away ", by somebody called Napoleon The Fourteenth.

Go on, admit it. You're gonna play it. (And indeed, that "song" went on to sell millions!).

Yes I know Victoria - a cover never made a book, nor a title never made a song, but yet you still glance at those covers don't you? Before you look at the first page of the book? Don't you?

Even before I ever heard the songs themselves, these titles on their own intrigued me....

"River Deep Mountain High", "Walk Like A Man", "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Like a Rolling Stone", "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Imagine", "Thriller", "Hotel California", "Born In The U.S.A.", "Like A Prayer", "Purple Rain", "Uptown Funk", "Rolling In The Deep", "Shape Of You"....

Of course they weren't hits simply because of their titles - but those titles did make me wonder about the song within.

When you're writing a song, never discount the title. It is the first thing that your (hopefully) future music publisher or record producer will see. Long before he gets to hear anything you've written.

Sometimes writing song titles can seem more difficult than it needs to be, but song titles are important.

• The title is often the primary identifier of a song. It distinguishes one composition from another and helps listeners remember and recognise it. A strong, memorable title can make a song stand out and create a lasting impression.

• The title can provide insight into the theme, subject matter, or central message of a song. It offers a glimpse into what the lyrics might convey, allowing listeners to form expectations or anticipate certain emotions or ideas within the composition.

• A catchy and engaging title can make a song more marketable and appealing to potential listeners. It can pique curiosity, generate interest, and entice people to give the song a listen. In some cases, the title alone can become a cultural reference point or catchphrase.

• Titles can evoke emotions or create associations with particular experiences or memories. A well-chosen title can enhance the emotional impact of a song, drawing listeners in and fostering a deeper connection between the music and the audience.

• The title can influence how listeners interpret and understand a song. It may provide context or suggest multiple layers of meaning, inviting individual interpretations and engaging the listener's imagination. The title can be an artist's deliberate choice to guide the listener's perception or leave room for personal exploration.

While the title is undoubtedly important, it is worth noting that a song's overall impact extends beyond just its title. Factors like the melody, lyrics, arrangement, and performance also play crucial roles in shaping a song's success and resonance with listeners.

So here are a some tips from Anthony Ceseri, to steer you in the right direction next time you sit down to come up with a title.

Jim Liddane

Thinking Up A Title

1. Your Title Should Make Your Song Findable
Typically song titles are intended to serve as a summation of what the song's about. But more than being just a recap of the song's essence, they're meant to help up find the songs we want to hear again. It's common for us to hear a song we like, then go to a search engine and search for the phrase in the chorus we perceive to be the title. We usually assume the title is the phrase that repeats the most, or is in the most highlighted position in the song. Use this concept to your advantage when you write, to make it easy for people to find your songs again.

2. Write The Title First
Writing the title before you write any other words for a song can be a great approach to try when writing lyrics. Think of the title of your song as a bumper sticker. In other words, it conveys the "big idea" for what your song's all about. That's why the title often occurs in the chorus. Aside from typically being the most memorable part of your song, your chorus will generally be a summation of what's happening in your verses. It's an "overall idea" so it can relate back to the progressing story line of your verses and bridge. Your title has that same role. So if you write the title of your song first, you'll have the "big idea" in mind when getting into the specific details of the rest of your song.

3. Ask A Friend
The next time you finish a song, play it for a friend without telling him the name of your song. See if your friend can tell you what the song is called, just by listening to the lyrics. If he's right, you probably have a strong title. If he doesn't know, you probably don't. Your titles should help your potential fans find your songs easily, after hearing them once. This is a good test to find out if your songs will be easy to find.

4. Let Your Title Create Intrigue
Titles are important too because they (can) create intrigue. If someone's looking at a list of your titles, and that's all they have to go on, a well written title can make them want to hear your song. For example, the title "I Never Knew That" is more likely to get played than "I Found out You Were Cheating on Me" because there's a curiosity arousing element to the first one. You'll ask yourself "He never knew WHAT?... " and then find yourself needed to hear the song.

5. Listen To Conversations
Next time you're in a conversation with someone, listen carefully to what they're saying. Don't just listen, but listen for titles. You'd be amazed by how many song ideas you can get from that. And once you have a title, you have a central focus for your chorus, which will get you going for your whole song as well. If you incorporate this into your every day life, you'll be flowing with ideas.

To learn more, download my free E-Book here:

How To Write A Song

Anthony Ceseri is a songwriter and performer who has travelled the United States in pursuit of the best songwriting advice and information available. From classes and workshops at Berklee College of Music in Boston, to Taxi’s Road Rally in Los Angeles, Anthony has learned from the most well-respected professional songwriters, producers and performers in the industry.

As a result of the information he’s compiled, he subsequently founded the site, a website dedicated to the growth and development of songwriters of all skill levels.

Anthony's writings appear as examples in the book "Songwriting Without Boundaries: Lyric Writing Exercises For Finding Your Voice" by Pat Pattison, an acclaimed lyric writing professor at Berklee College of Music.

Copyright Songwriter Magazine, International Songwriters Association & Amthony Ceseri: All Rights Reserved

The Knowledge

If you have wandered onto this page by accident, then you may very well be wondering what "The Knowledge" button above is all about.

"The Knowledge" is a free multi-part course which takes you from thinking up the basic idea for your song, through using AI or Artificial Intelligence to help improve your writing skills, to penning the title, the lyric and the melody. It then covers plagiarism (what to do if you're told your song sounds like another one!) and copyrighting your song, so that you can take action if your work is stolen.

Finally, it deals with selling your song, promoting your demo, music publishers, putting your songs on the web, and in movies, or on television, getting the money in, raising cash to fund your career via crowd-funding, before setting up your own music publishing company so that you get to keep all of the money! And that blue button at the bottom of each lesson simply takes you to the next lesson.

If however you would like to go back to Lesson 1 and start the course (it will take about 90 minutes to complete), then just press HERE!

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