208 Words

30 May

I read an article the other day about how the most lucrative song ever written is “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett. Quoting from the Bloomberg Businessweek, “To think that all of this poured forth from a goofy, three-chord song—a mere 208 words, roughly half the length of this article—written about being lazy and getting drunk.”

This “most lucrative” title doesn’t stem from the royalties of the song or Buffett’s concerts alone. Margaritaville Enterprises franchises tourist entertainment complexes, sells beachwear, furniture, alcohol, blenders, and more.
While an interesting article, the fact that it all started from 208 words fascinates me. Somehow, the way he put those words together with the melody hooked people and started a financial empire. Was it luck? Or the ability to make listeners feel a certain way. In this case, carefree, relaxed, happy! How many of you can sing a few lines? I can.

BTW, the song’s popular ranking isn’t even in the top 10 richest songs. The two highest-ranking pop songs are You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, by the Righteous Brothers, and Yesterday, by the Beatles. (No. 1 was Happy Birthday to You.) However, as a branding and a lifestyle having most total impact, Margaritaville wins with a couple hundred million dollars.

Another thing adding to this culture happened when Buffett dubbed his diehard fans Parrotheads in 1989. Parrotheads travel to Buffett’s concerts and party, party, party. These fans support the Margaritaville culture. It’s worth noting the Grateful Dead had Deadheads in the ‘70’s and young Justin Bieber has Beliebers, which was started around 2008 by his YouTube fans.

When we write, we spend agonizing days looking for the right words to communicate our work to the readers. It’s not the number of words, it’s how they are on the page and what they convey.

Sometimes, we think we’ll never get it right. Ah, but when we do…it’s worth it.

208 Words


Posted by on May 30, 2013 in artist, community, Theme, writers, writing


Tags: , ,

16 responses to “208 Words

  1. Judith Keim

    May 30, 2013 at 7:38 AM

    Love this, Janis! It’s not the quantity of words but the quality that’s so important. This is a good reminder for me to search for the words with the most powerful impact no matter what I’m trying to convey. And, yes, every time I hear the song I at least tap my foot!

  2. Janis McCurry

    May 30, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    It’s funny because I always liked the song even though I hate tequila and don’t consider myself a beach person. But I read the article and before I looked up the lyrics, I was singing, “Nibblin’ on sponge cake, watchin’ the sun bake, all of those tourists covered in oil…” I sang it “erl” because that the way Jimmy sounded when he sang “oil.” Decades later and the words instantly came to me.

  3. Peggy Staggs

    May 30, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    Ahhh! The agony of writing…trying to get it right. The way we put words together is so important. Who knows what will strike the public’s fancy? All we can do is strive for is a little “Margaritaville”.

    • Janis McCurry

      May 30, 2013 at 9:23 AM

      If we just had a crystal ball to tell us what will work!

  4. maryvine

    May 30, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    It’s amazing isn’t it? I would have never, never, never guessed those three songs. I do appreciate the Beatles music in a different way these days. I appreciate the versitality (is that the word, and is it spelled right?) they’ve had in their writing and song. True, it’s easy to recognize the voices but the songs can be so different in every way. Now, that’s talent.

    • Janis McCurry

      May 30, 2013 at 9:25 AM

      I loved the Beatles but the band that seemed more “emotional” or struck my emotions or whatever that “thing” is was The Doors. Tragic, dysfunctional Jim Morrison could really tell a story.

  5. Suzie Quint

    May 30, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    I know a Parrothead in Seattle. There’s actually more to being a Parrothead than the music. To be an acknowledge Parrothead “chapter,” they have to be involved in raising money for charities. I know my friend’s P-head group was very involved in Toys for Tots, but there were other things as well.

    • Janis McCurry

      May 30, 2013 at 9:23 AM

      That’s fabulous. Impacting through good works.

  6. BobY

    May 30, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    i think you found a title for your blog, you living in the 208.

  7. stephanieberget

    May 30, 2013 at 8:35 PM

    Margaritaville and the Beatles, can’t get much better than that, except maybe the Doors. You picked the best of the best.

  8. Janis

    May 30, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    Thanks, but doggone it, I sure dated myself!

  9. Lynn Mapp

    June 1, 2013 at 5:20 AM

    Yep, the power of 208 words. As you said, it was how he put those words together and the delivery.

  10. Janis

    June 1, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    Something to strive for in our work.

  11. marsharwest

    June 1, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    Well, Janis, I connected with this in a little different way. I’ve read on Writers In The Storm blog about writers having posses or sisters or some other word I now can’t remember. LOL The point being you have a group of supporters who have a special relationship with you the author. The get to be in your club. Different from the parrotheads, deadheads, or beliebers I think , because there are some perks to being in the club and they generally aren’t huge numbers. Depends on what the author can handle.
    And yes, we all strive to line those words up in just the right way to touch someone’s life.

    • Janis McCurry

      June 4, 2013 at 7:09 AM

      I agree. Jane Austen has Jane-ites, I could have Janis-ettes!


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