How to choose a hit song…..the best advice the great Quincy Jones ever gave me.

Back in the late eighties, I lived in Los Angeles. I was signed as a songwriter to a production company called RUFMIX Productions owned by a good friend of mine, the great Taavi Mote, one of the best LA sound engineers I have every worked with.

One day, I was invited to a studio called Westlake Audio (where Michael Jackson recorded the Thriller album). That day I met one of my all time idols, the great Quincy Jones.

I was young and totally in awe of this great pioneer of popular music and completely by chance I got the opportunity to sit down with him for a few minutes and have a short chat.

I was so nervous thinking ‘What do I ask him?’ – I knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime and didn’t want to blow it. So the first thing I thought to ask was ‘How do you choose a hit song?’ – after all Quincy Jones has produced more than most.

As it turned out, Quincy gave this young sound engineer the best advice ever – very simple advice that I have used all my professional life since.

Quincy simply said, “I choose songs that I like on a personal level, I never approach a record thinking that this song or that song is a hit song. I pick songs that move me in some way, that touch my soul deep inside”.

He went on to say that “logically, with billions of people on the planet, there are going to be millions of other people that will also love the song, and millions who will not and that is good enough”. With that he was called back into the studio, he shook my hand and wished me luck and that was it.

I remember telling my friends that I had met Quincy Jones that day, I just couldn’t believe my luck. Those few minutes with Quincy were so profound for me because I remember how kind he was to me, he didn’t have to bother at all but he shook my hand and looked me in the eye when he spoke to me.

At that moment he was interested in me and answering my question, simple as it may seem, that short time with him has stayed with me ever since and barely a day goes by when he doesn’t cross my mind in some way.

Several years later when I started producing albums myself, selecting songs to record, I approached each project the same way as Quincy told me to – picking songs that I like, that speak to me on a personal level.

Quincy won’t remember meeting me that day back in 1988, but I will never forget that for that very short time, I was in the presence of somebody very special indeed.

Check out the TCM Mastering and Music Group websites for details and information on how you can take advantage of some great Recording and Mastering deals for your own songs.

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