It is intriguing to look at the outside of a CD of an artist’s new release. Perhaps it’s their second release, or maybe it’s their 20th. How do they do it? Where does all this creativity come from? How much of this them and how much came from someone else?
The real story is on the inside.
For the most part, credit is given where credit is due, literally. So when you’re looking at a CD and/or reading lyrics, the writer or writers are usually listed. You’ll see some artists write their own songs, some co-write their songs and some don’t write songs at all.
Only the songwriter(s) and their publishers are paid from music that is played over the radio, but record companies and singers (or artists who don’t write their own material) are trying to get laws passed that change this. For a long time the industry generally looked at this as free three minute commercials for their records, and artists looked at it as promotion for their upcoming concerts. But those days are gone.
These days many artists are looking at that money as money left on the table. Seeing songwriters making money off of their talent while they don’t doesn’t ring true for them. Of course, the songwriter’s view would be without a song, the singer wouldn’t have anything to sing.
So many formerly non-writing singers are trying their hand at songwriting.
Now, anyone can write a song, but writing a great song is a different story. So the budding songwriter/singer/artist may enlist the help of a veteran songwriter to give their ideas the structure, the cleverness, the lack of predictability, the hookiness (new word!) and the intangibles that make a potential hit.
And, if the songwriter is of the non-performing variety or doesn’t have the “it” that the stars (as in the entertainment sense) possess, they are more than willing to oblige. After all: half of something is better than all of nothing.
That’s not to say that a singer may not have a knack for songwriting; they could be a natural, and the only reason the world never noticed their songwriting ability is because they never sat down and wrote a song.
But more likely…just as they were recognized as having a great voice and an engaging stage persona which they developed over the years, most songwriters honed their God-given abilities and advanced their craft throughout their lives. Most people who are great at something probably worked hard at for a long period of time.
And some artists, they’re born with both. They have the gift of both lyrics and music, along with the delivery system: the voice people want to hear.
But there’s more to the story than that.
Whether it’s band in the studio, or a singer/artist with session musicians, there is a collaborative atmosphere among the players with the sole objective to make the best possible version of the song. It’s not unusual for a signature lick of a song to be the creation of one of the players at the session without any expectation of songwriting credit.
Take, for example, Steve Cropper’s opening lick on “Soul Man” by Sam & Dave (but written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter). People are running towards the dance floor before the third note. Copper gained near-immortal status status in the sound when Sam (or Dave) exclaimed, “Play it, Steve!” but it’s doubtful he received anything more than that and the session pay for the gig.
But, that hasn’t stopped musicians from feeling their contribution actually made the song. Last year (July 30, 2009) Matthew Fisher, the organist for the band Procol Harum, sued for and received songwriting credit for his organ part on the band’s landmark hit “Whiter Shade of Pale.”
But this seems to be the exception more than the rule. Most session musicians look at their contribution as work for hire. Besides, once a session cat starts suing the very people who hire him/her for songwriting credit, others would become weary of having that cat at the session.
It would be a safe assumption that the words, melody and lyrics were the work of the credited songwriter or songwriters. As for the actual production of a song it could be the artist, the producer, the musicians or a combination of all three.
Jake Kelly is a man on the constant search for enlightenment, if anyone finds it let him know so he can get some. For more of this hombre’s ramblings and the rest of L2P check out L2Pbandspace and L2Pnet.com.
Originally posted 2010-09-01 15:39:13.