Singer-Songwriter - Recording Studio

Songwriting, the Warts and All

It seems that the era of one song-one songwriter is quickly passing us by. There really aren’t many hit songs that are written by one songwriter anymore. Part of the reason for that is that how we assign credit has changed. In the 60s, for example, you might, as part of the band, suggest a different chord or some other minor adjustment, and it may not have led to getting a songwriter’s credit.

How did we get to this stage, where it seems that for every song that’s hit material you’ve got six or more credited writers, and just as many producers? There are real reasons for it, and you might give this insightful Forbes article “Why Does It Take Five Songwriters To Come Up With A Tune Called ‘B**ch I’m Madonna?’” (Nick Messitte) a read.

The main takeaway from that article, if you read it to the end, is that there’s a “way it’s done now” that requires anyone else hoping to get to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 to play by these rules. You may have a great song, but you’ll need the expertise, it would seem, of some producer, who has a team of other producers that need crediting.

The process doesn’t appear to leave a lot of room for genuine creativity. But we are in a world where the powerful need for sales preempts the need for creativity, at least in the industry part of the equation.

It almost resembles a situation where a bunch of executives from McDonalds get together “to create the best hamburger ever!” But the infrastructure is all in place for creating a certain kind of hamburger, and no matter how creative they think they’re being, they’re not.

The short answer to why it takes multiple songwriters to come up with any hit song is: It doesn’t. The main part of any song can be written by one person — you — with a vision. If some producer thinks it has hit potential, then you have to decide what that’s worth to you.

That producer will know someone who knows someone. Your song will get tweaked, nudged, adjusted, polished and pulled until it fits a formula that someone says will create the best scenario for sales. That, by the way, has always been the case. Fifty years ago, producers were saying to reluctant bands, “You know that song you guys did? Write another one like that.” The only difference is that today, producers are saying, “Here, let us do it for you…”

For what it’s worth, it’s been a long time since I’ve paid attention to what the Billboard Hot 100 says are the best songs out there. Indie/alternative music offers me a much better chance that I’m going to hear a powerful partnership between words, melodies and chords, and I’ll take it, warts and all.

Gary EwerWritten by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter. Hooks & Riffs“Hooks and Riffs: How They Grab Attention, Make Songs Memorable, and Build Your Fan Base” shows you how a good hook can make the difference between songwriting success and failure. With great examples from pop music history.Written by Gary Ewer. Follow Gary on Twitter.

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One Comment

  1. A Lot Of Truth Spoken Here I am certain a lot of collaborators
    missed out on royalties, in some ways having Robert Mutt Lange
    being a co writer and producer would be worth 50 per cent of
    any ones royalties , re Def Lepoard Shania Twain and even
    Bob Geldoph’s first three hits because without Mutts suggestions
    an Production those songs in general would not have charted

    Gelldoph learned a lot from Mutt even though Mutt did not rate Gelldoph and his band

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