I’m Not Allowed to Write a Bad Song?

Submitted by Peter Åstedt

I was teaching at a music school a couple of years ago, talking about the importance of a good song. I told the students that whatever I told them was a tipoff on how to market their songs but it will not work if the song is not good. All I was saying was calculated by the fact that the song had to be great. One kid raised his hand and asked “I’m I not allowed to write a bad song?”

I was a bit puzzled. Why do you want to write a bad song? Of course, you are entitled to do that, at the same time it’s not hard to write a song that no one wants to listen to? Then of course we came into what is a good song? Is “Crazy Frog” – Axel F a good song? Not really but it’s built upon a good song Harold Faltermeyer – Axel F. Sure earworms can be simple but still good songs. There were two things that the students seemed to hide behind. One was that they were afraid of not being able to write a good song. Of course, most of the things they wrote they thought it were good, why write it otherwise” They were scared then that the big record industry execs would come and say that their song is not good enough. Still, history is full of decisions where the music industry has said that a song was not good enough and the audience has thought differently. Songs like Icon Pop – I don’t care, Zara Larsson – Lush Life was turned down as it was considered not good enough.

The fear of being rejected also made the students reluctant to succeed. Making a hit was like selling out. Like it was equal that you had to change your ideals just to make a hit? That it was not complicated enough! The history is full of hits that are very complicated to write and to play so that is not true. I guess this is from stories back in the days where many people were part of the process of the song. Many people that really not were musicians, like A&R people, executive producers, and PR people. All with a say in the final product.

Today that is far from true. Today the artist has kind of full control in many cases. What happens then? They go to co-writing with several people to get the perfect song. I guess to make a perfect song you need input as well. The problem today is that you are too fast to release music that is not worked to a final product.

I was going through at least 20 songs yesterday searching for music for my radio show. I was really disappointed; all songs were not thought through and really bad. These wouldn’t have survived the demo stage back in the days. Now they are fully released and promoted.

I think the industry probably said no to a lot of great songs that never got a chance. At the same time, it stopped so many crappy songs that didn’t stand a chance. The great part of the industry is that it also has elevated songs by input. Now it seems like we are just here to say no.

My guess is that the new way is killing good songs on a larger scale than ever before. Songs that never get a chance to evolve to be great hits. At the same time, today’s music is competing with the music from the past. So far, the music from the past is winning. The music now is more like what we said was just a hit for the day. At the same time, the future will just hold a couple of mega-companies that has the time and money to develop the songs for the full capacity. Just how it looks in the TV world. Youtube has not made better TV shows even if we all have the chance to play TV producers. Spotify has not created better artists or songs even it let everyone release music.

Editor’s Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals and is an advisor for INES and co-founder of MusicHelp/Discover Sensation. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and Super Bowl. Peter has currently taken up the seat of Station Manager of Cashbox Radio, working with MD, PD and station owner, Sandy Graham. In 2021, he worked as the European Consultant for Heal the Earth – An Earth Day Celebration. His latest venture is a new Showcase Festival in Sweden, Future Echoes futureechoes.se/. As well, Peter is Co-Founder and Editor of the newly launched Record World International.