I started on the web in 1996, when websites consisted pretty much of only words on a grey background and there was no such thing as high speed internet, just dial-up connections that loaded pages literally at a snail’s pace.
There were very few, if any, message boards back then. Instead, we had newsgroups that you subscribed to through your email software. I joined a group called rec.music.makers.songwriting in the hopes of connecting with other songwriters and maybe even exposing some of my own material. People would post things, just like on message boards, and others would respond. It wasn’t as nasty as it is now on places like Twitter, most responses were cordial.
One day, however, someone was asking about song form; should all songs have choruses, verses, bridges? Something to that effect. There were a bunch of opinions. I posted mine. I’m going from memory here, but essentially what I said is that a song can be anything you like, but it still has to have some kind of understandable form if you want someone else to listen to it or buy it. I said that a shirt still has to have a place to put your arms and your head and the rest of you, otherwise, it isn’t really a shirt. Someone responded pretty harshly, something I won’t repeat here. I’d never experienced anything like it before. It is still nothing like the abuse you often see on social media these days, but it stung.
But the reason I brought this up is because I know there are songwriters out there who push the boundaries and try to do something different, and I admire that. However, I still believe most of us have to make sure our songs like shirts; there has to be some kind of identifiable form. Otherwise, nobody is going to buy, or even like, the shirt. You can try to find a way to make a really unique shirt. There are many, many styles and colours, sizes and shapes of shirts to experiment with. But it still has to work as a shirt.
The official song of the 2015 Pan Am Games, “Together We Are One” sung by Serena Ryder, apparently has 22 writers to its credit.
I can hear the jokes now: “Which word did you write?”
Seriously, this is the music biz at its worst. Everybody wants a piece of the action so everyone has to have their name on the credits, even if you were just sitting in the room. It’s greedy and ridiculous. And the songwriter who did the most work or who came up with the idea (we’ll likely never know who that was), is pretty much ripped off because he/she has to share whatever income the song generates, along with getting lost in credits crowded by 21 other people.
The song itself is your standard pop arena anthem with nothing special to it. Other than the fact there are 22 writer credits.
If you haven’t yet heard about it, Adam Levine, Dave Stewart and the executive producer of The Voice, Audrey Morrissey, will be teaming up to produce a new series called Songland.
The whole idea behind Songland is that songwriters will get a chance to pitch their songs to a panel, very much like vocalists vying for a deal on The Voice, and the winner will, I’m guessing, get their song recorded by a big name artist. Continue reading “Songland Could Be Good If…”
One of my favourite songs a couple of years back was the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. I was grieving the death of my father who died at the age of 91 of Alzheimers just before than and that song just perked me up out of my gloom. I even wrote a post about it on my I Like Songs blog. Well, I didn’t write much, I just wanted to feature it.
It’s no surprise that the song was an enormous hit.
What IS a surprise is an article I read just recently about the income it generated from Pandora. There were 43 million streams. And what did it earn? A measly $2700. Yes, to some of you $2700 sounds like a lot of money. But 43 million streams?
The question today is: Has production become more important than songwriting in today’s music? It’s not a new question, but it’s important to revisit from time to time. I actually saw a discussion of this on Reddit and it got me to thinking about it again.
Let’s first separate production from arrangement. Arrangement involves the musical part of the song; who plays what where and for how long, whereas the production is the more technical aspect; volume, effects, mastering and everything in between.