Go for Broca

A challenge to songwriters from Michael Laskow:

What makes your music memorable? If you had to answer that instantly, could you? Could a friend?
Could a stranger who heard one of your songs only once?

I won’t argue that it often takes several listens to make a song stick in your cerebral cortex. But the
more memorable it is, the quicker it will stick, and the longer it will stay stuck.

For the most part, it’s the hook that makes a song memorable. There are many different kinds of hooks.
There are chorus hooks, lyrical hooks, melodic hooks, alliterative hooks — the list is longer than
Bubba Gump’s favorite shrimp recipes, and it’s important.

Hooks are important because they make a part of your brain activate. It’s called Broca’s area. It sits
somewhere over your ear, and it processes language comprehension. It helps you remember what gets your
attention.

Hooks get your attention. They attract and demand your attention. And once they’ve got your attention,
they become memorable.

I spent some time with an A&R person over the weekend. He played some songs that were strong
contenders for the next album for a multi-platinum group. They were barely memorable. The hooks didn’t
jump out at me, but in fairness to the writers and to the A&R guy, I only listened once.

But once was all it took for so many of the songs that we now consider classics. You just knew they
were hits when you heard them for the very first time. Something in them tickled Broca’s area.

And when the song was over, you wanted to hear it again—immediately!

So maybe that’s the Holy Grail or the Golden Ticket. A few syllables, a few notes with just the right
intervals to make it interesting but easy for the listener to repeat, the right alliteration, lyrics
that are basic but meaningful, and a story that listeners can relate to or feel something from.

Aren’t those the things that make music memorable?

Take a stroll through your catalog tonight and measure your songs not by how they make you feel,
but by how they make others feel.

(Michael Laskow, taxi.com)