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.

3 Comments

  1. I like the score card idea, but not the ‘focus group’. Great music isn’t done by committee, but by the vision the artist or band has. It’s up to them to convince the fans, through their work, of the fricken kickassness of that vision. In other words, give fans something they like, but didn’t expect.

    • Simon Tam says:

      Same concept, just a different application. Devo actually used the focus group concept for their new album in terms of sound, style, even their wardrobe. The new album and live show is amazing. However, it could just depend on who is involved. For my band, we already wrote the songs, we just wanted some objective opinions on what should go on the album and what should not. It’s like hiring a producer…or a team of them.

    • James Wolf says:

      I understand where you’re coming from with the focus group, but if kept to a limited number of trusted fans, this idea could work to one’s advantage.

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