Anatomy Of A Hit Song (Story)

Steve Ford Jennifer Allen over at Centricity Records asked several decision makers in Christian radio what makes a song a “hit.”

These industry leaders said a hit song is hooky (memorable) and communicates a message that is readily apparent and relatable to the listener.

But since radio stations are programmed by humans, the song singer factors as much in the success of a song as the song itself.

Hit songs often come from artists who are protagonists in a compelling life story that illicits empathy or admiration.

Many successful gifted artists in Christian music have a great story we love to hear.

  • Their story isn’t manufactured or manipulative and it’s certainly no replacement for talent.
  • The story is created by life, identified by marketers, and spread by the artist and fans.
  • The story makes us want them to succeed – so much so that we’re willing to help them do it.
  • The story may give an artist credibility. They’ve overcome some obstacle or accomplished some feat and so we – rightfully – believe they have something to say worth listening to.
  • The story may make an artist more relatable. We’re left feeling they’re “just like us” – merely human. And if God can do this in their life then…
  • The story is so concise and simple that it is easily passed along. Memorable. Just a sentence or two.

The story becomes a hook for the artist. You think of the artist and immediately you think of their story.

For example, it goes without saying that Jeremy Camp is a gifted singer and songwriter. So were a lot of guys with guitars when his first single released. But Jeremy’s label identified and told his courageous story well. And Jeremy told it in concert every night.

Jeremy’s wife – the love of his life – passed away when they were newlyweds. Jeremy didn’t lose faith but instead he lifted his hands and his voice at her bedside and praised God in the valley of the shadow of death, trusting the God who gives and takes away but never abandons.

Memorable. Inspiring. Encouraging. Human.

The story made us care about this guitar playing singer more than many others. We all wanted this faithful guy to find love again. And he did. That was the story told when his second album and next batch of chart-topping singles released: Jeremy got married.

With Jeremy’s third album another ideal chapter was added to his already incredible story: a baby.

Jeremy’s story, as much as Jeremy’s music, turned you and me, retailers and, yes, guys at radio stations into fans. Because we’re human.

Humans don’t just buy music. They buy people. And Christian radio is run by humans who gravitate toward the best stories.

They can’t help it. Story is that powerful. It moves us, helps us make sense of life, helps us describe and identify with others, and it humanizes those faces on CD covers – Helps us see God at work in their lives and in ours.

In one sentence, what is your story?