SongTown: The Biggest Mistake

People often ask me to define the biggest mistake I see songwriters making as they chase that first cut.

If I had to pick one BIG one, I would say that it is using out-dated language.

Anyone who is over 30 years old has to continually be aware of the "slang" that they are using in their song. Using the wrong words can INSTANTLY get your song thrown out and get you labeled as an out-dated and out of touch writer.

We have to remember that audiences at concerts are very young. Lots of teenagers. So, artists want songs that appeal to that young crowd. The artist's longevity depends on being able to stay relevant and "cool.”

An artist who is in their 40s is extremely concerned about staying cool. I googled "outdated slang" and found a wealth of information regarding words that are no longer "in.”

As you write, be aware that your slang may date you in a way you don't want. If you are unsure whether a word is still cool, google it and check it out. Or check with a teenager you know. I run things by my kids if I'm unsure.

  • Slang words can also be so specific to one location that other people won't get them. Some of my Canadian friends have used words that they use regularly, but I have never heard.
  • When I critique songs, I often hear songs that are well written but feel so out of date that I know no artist would touch it. Don't ruin a great song by giving away your age.

Recently, I wrote with two 20 something writers. I kept throwing out lines that they said were "Not cool enough". I finally asked them to tell me what a cool line would be. They threw out something that made no sense at all.

We made a deal. I told them that they could work at making my lines cooler all day if I could work at making theirs make sense. We struck a deal and we wrote some great songs. Drop the pride. Get help if you need to up the "cool" factor in your songs.

There's nothing wrong with admitting that you might be a little behind the times. There is a LOT wrong with being content to stay there as a writer if you hope to achieve commercial success.

Stay cool and write on.

Marty Dodson
Songwriter/Producer/Seeker of Coolness

Marty Dodson blogs daily on Facebook at www.facebook/songtownusa and on You can check out his music at Marty plays Taylor Guitars and Batson Guitars.

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