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#460504 - 03/04/18 08:09 PM [Songwriting] Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species
ManInTwoSocks Offline
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Registered: 02/09/18
Posts: 12
Loc: Los Angeles, Cauliflower
Solo hit songwriters have become an endangered species or
Too many songwriters spoil the song
(Too many cooks spoil the broth)

Article on Many Writers for One Song

Forum thread about which singers use writer camps


Remember when there used to be numerous solo hit songwriters like
Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Carly Simon, Carole King, Stevie Wonder,
Billy Joel, Sting, Paul McCartney etc.?
And remember when there usually would be no more than 2 songwriters
on a hit single which would be written by such teams as Leiber and Stoller, Goffin and King, Bacharach and David, Lennon and McCartney and Jagger and Richards?
And the absolute most number of writers on a hit single would be 3,
such as the team of Holland, Dozier, and Holland who wrote the
majority of the Motown hits?

Well, you'd best remember all of them while you still can because the
solo hit songwriter species will soon be extinct.

The link at the top of this page is an article about how Music Week magazine
compared the top 100 singles of 2016 to the top 100 singles of a decade earler.
What they found was that in 2016 the average number of writers on a hit single
was 4.53 and a decade earlier it had only been 3.52. That is an enormous
increase of around 30% in only one year. And back in the 60s and 70s the average number of writers on a hit single was probably less than 2.

Also, in 2016 there were only 4 of the top 100 songs that had one writer, as compared to 14 songs with one writer a decade earlier. And i'm sure the number of songs with one writer, during any single year in the 60s and 70s, was probably 2 or maybe even 3 times as many.

The article goes on to talk a little about 'writer camps'. The second link is to a thread on a forum in which people speculate about which female singers have writer camps, and you can see, by reading that thread, that many music fans do not think very highly of those writer camps. It's a case of too many cooks spoil the broth.

However that article fails to mention a very important cause of why there is such
a significant increase in credited writers over the years: It is due to the fact that, in recent years, people who have not written a single note of melody and not a single word of the
lyric have been getting songwriter credits as a result of their contribution
to the musical arrangement. In other words, people who, in the past, would have
only been credited as a musician or a producer are now receiving
songwriting credits and, of course, songwriting royalties
This is particularly true in hip-hop with the person who creates only the beat
receiving a songwriter credit.

So why is this a bad trend? Well, first of all there is the old proverb: Too many cooks spoil the broth. The songwriter who first has that creative moment of comin up with a melody or lyric has had an artistic vision, and when other collaboraters
try to develop that vision they often degrade what the original songwriter felt
in the moment of the song's origin.
This is analagous to what happens when a film studio decides to improve a script by bringing in a series of screenwriters
until a screenplay has changed so much from the original first draft that it has lost
the essence of what had mad it so interesting in the first place.

This is also a bad trend for us songwriters. I don't know about you folks, but i find it lowers the value of what a songwriting credit represents when people who have
not written a single note of melody and not a single word of the lyric receive a
songwriting credit. Also, let's say that some singer decides to record a song
you wrote all by yourself and a producer or musician receives a songwriter
credit. That means you will get less than 100% of the songwriter's royalties.

This is also a bad trend because when there are many songwriters, writing
the songs on an album, instead of one or two, the album loses a sense of
artistic vision.

For example, Burt Bacharach and Hal David would often write all the songs
on a Dionne Warwick album. This gave Dionne's albums a unified vision.
Nowadays with the numerous songwriters on a single album, you no longer
get that sense of a unified vision.

Somehow, that Barry Manilow song, I Write The Songs would just not mean
as much to people if the title had been We Write The Songs.
Similarly, would Killing Me Softly With His Song have meant as much to
people if it had been titled Killing Me Softly With Their Song?
Or would Elton and Bernie Taupin's Your Song had the same poignancy if
instead of the lyrics being 'My gift is my song and this one's for you', it
had instead been 'Our gift is our song and this one's for you'? The personal touch
is no longer communicated when you go from the one to the many.

Don't get me wrong, i am not putting down songwriting coolaboration
in general. The musical world was very much enriched by those songs
on the early Beatles albums that John and Paul co-wrote or the songs
written by Jagger and Richards or Bernie Taupin and Elton John or
Robert Hunter and The Grateful Dead.

I just think that this trend of having a greater number of songwriters writing each
song is just one more factor in the decline in The Gentle Arte of Songwriting
and Musicke that has occurred over the course of the last half century and
it devalues the significance of what a songwriter actually does.
And it is also a bad trend when a singer like Adele, who has collaborated on
most of the songs she has sung, is referrred to as a singer-songwrier.

For the final part of this message i want to focus on the singers, who have not
made any contributions to a song's melody or lyric who, nevertheless,
receive a songwriting credit.

I have read that this practice of a singer receiving a totally undeserved
songwriting credit dates back to the early 1900s. It has been well documented
that Elvis Presley received songwriting credits on many of the songs he sang,
despite his never having made any contributions to the songs' melodies
or lyrics. Basically, either Elvis or his manager would blackmail a songwriter
by saying something like 'Look, if you want to be the songwriter of an Elvis
song, you are going to have to give Elvis a songwriting credit and give up half of
your songwriting royalties.'

I have a feeling that this sort of thing was not done as much in the 60s and 70s
as a result of so many solo artists writing their own songs, and even bands
writing their own songs.

But it looks like this sleazy practice began to become pervasive again after
the end of the 90s when the music industry took a huge nose dive. Over the course of only a decade or so the American music business was only raking in around 1/3 of what it had previously taken in a decade before.

As a result of this, musical artists who had been making millions of dollars in
artist royalties a decade before were now not selling enough records for the record companies to make a profit, and so those artists who were only selling a million or so
albums were not getting a single penny in artist royalties.

However, with songwriter royalties, unlike artist royalties, you start receiving
those songwriting royalties even if you only sell a small number of albums.

So, that is why singers were starting to blackmail songwriters into giving up
half their royalties. The singers were motivated purely by financial greed.

But let us not entirely place the blame for this on the people who are getting
undeserved songwriting credits. It is just as much the fault of the
indiscriminating public which relentlessly buys poorly written songs as long
as those songs have a good singer and a good beat.
And the way things look don't expect the state of top 40 to get a whole
lot better, it's bound to get a whole lot worse.
On that cheerful note, i will take my leave.
_________________________
Matador is beautiful,a symphony of style
Excitement is ecstatic, passion places bets
Gracefully he bows to ovations that he gets
But the hands that are applauding are slippery with sweat
And saliva is falling from their smiles

Phil Ochs- Crucifixion


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#460507 - 03/04/18 09:26 PM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: ManInTwoSocks]
Belladonna Offline
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Registered: 09/09/17
Posts: 250
Loc: Virginia
It's all about money. The public just isn't buying music like they used to. Nashville's only putting out a small percentage of the music they used to. Also, it seems there are more individuals creating music with all the technology available today, so many people can have a home studio. A lot of this music is offered for free on the internet. So there's a lot of people in and around the industry not making a lot of money, they way they used too. I believe a lot of Nashville co-writes is so that their writers get a piece of the action. I know a long time Nashville person who told me as an outside writer, doesn't matter how good you are you're not even going to be talked to unless you come down and team up with one of their own. You are correct in that I also feel it waters down the song. It's like two painters painting an oil painting on the same canvas. I feel the best teams are someone who's good at the lyrics and someone who's good at the music, like Elton John and Bernie Taupin. They may hire other technicians, but those people aren't the creative ones. It is true that a famous singer may take the song someplace it would have never gone and maybe that is worth a cut. Don Schlitz's song "The Gambler" never made it big until Kenny Rodgers sang it, although it was a great song. I do agree that too many of the same type, such as two lyrics writers together or two musicians together distorts the creativity in many cases.


Edited by Belladonna (03/04/18 09:28 PM)

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#460563 - 03/05/18 05:20 AM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: ManInTwoSocks]
cliftond Offline
Apprentice

Registered: 12/23/17
Posts: 294
Loc: Alabama
Very well put, and I agree, too many ideas on a subject can lead to song that has a lot of statements with no outcome or verdict. I like music to be simple, real, have a beginning, middle and end,but, I am sorta old school.

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#460606 - 03/05/18 07:52 AM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: cliftond]
MarioD Online   content
Veteran

Registered: 12/27/03
Posts: 10973
Loc: Hamlin NY
Very well stated. I agree with Donna in that it is all about money. Fewer people are buying CDs. The younger generation thinks that music should be free. The older generations, the ones whom have the money to purchase music, doesn't like what is being produced today, just like it has been in the past. The difference is that my generation had money to buy albums. The kids today take their discretionary money and buy video games.

The home studio has also hurt the big music corporations. They are no longer needed to make a song or CD.

Last but not least I have heard much better music on this site than I have heard on commercial radio.

YMMV
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#460628 - 03/05/18 09:16 AM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: Belladonna]
cliftond Offline
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Registered: 12/23/17
Posts: 294
Loc: Alabama
Originally Posted By: Belladonna
It's all about money. The public just isn't buying music like they used to. Nashville's only putting out a small percentage of the music they used to. Also, it seems there are more individuals creating music with all the technology available today, so many people can have a home studio. A lot of this music is offered for free on the internet. So there's a lot of people in and around the industry not making a lot of money, they way they used too. I believe a lot of Nashville co-writes is so that their writers get a piece of the action. I know a long time Nashville person who told me as an outside writer, doesn't matter how good you are you're not even going to be talked to unless you come down and team up with one of their own. You are correct in that I also feel it waters down the song. It's like two painters painting an oil painting on the same canvas. I feel the best teams are someone who's good at the lyrics and someone who's good at the music, like Elton John and Bernie Taupin. They may hire other technicians, but those people aren't the creative ones. It is true that a famous singer may take the song someplace it would have never gone and maybe that is worth a cut. Don Schlitz's song "The Gambler" never made it big until Kenny Rodgers sang it, although it was a great song. I do agree that too many of the same type, such as two lyrics writers together or two musicians together distorts the creativity in many cases.

excellent write Belladonna
my experience in this, in the early 90's I took some songs to a studio and recorded them , just my guitar and vocal, made a tape, (you remember those things right) well I took it to Nashville, walked music row putting in the few record co.s publishing firms that would accept it. Went home and didn't expect much, well lo and behold, I got a call from Warner Bros. A&R rep. He had listened to the tape liked and told me to get plugging, that I had potential, he put in contact with another writer in Nashville. I got in touch with him and met him at the blue bird cafe, where he was doing the round mic sing one night. I enjoyed the sit in listening to him and the other writers singing. Long story short I was working a good job, and was not about to quit to go to Nashville to co write songs, probably making no money at it for a while. The writer told me this was the golden opportunity, no one got called like that, and he told me never to say that song writing was a hobby, it was a profession, well it was and still is a hobby, i make my money working and support my family working. So I did not move to Nashville, and you know what? I am glad i didn't, I love working from my home studio with my son doing music they way we want to do it, not being told how. Plus if music becomes work, it loses the beauty to me. Well I have went on enough about this. And so it was.

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#460671 - 03/05/18 12:44 PM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: ManInTwoSocks]
HearToLearn Offline
Expert

Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 1443
Loc: -
I agree it's mostly about money...but feel that has probably been said almost forever. It may never be more true than now though. But, we all know it is the music business. I don't blame them. Until I'm willing to put my money behind it; I won't tell them how it should be done. Once again, money talks.

I'm not totally sure how I feel about the number of song writing credits that are given out now. Producers also get a lot of writing credit; and personally I feel they deserve it. They are typically more in tune with what sells than the artist. Many times, the artist (if they are commercial) are relying on the producer to get them "that sound." Some of the repeating of melodic pieces at various points becomes essential. They didn't write it, but it wouldn't have been placed where it was without them either.

Personally, I don't care if it one "writer" or 100. Either I like the song or I don't. For me, it's about the song.

It's also fairly well known that there were MANY people instrumental in the hits of "back in the day" that weren't credited. To me, that is much worse.

Also, ghost writing is nothing new. I've done it to some extent and it can be lucrative. I'm not totally writing a song for an artist. I'm simply taking what they want to be song, and help that happen. They are still involved. It's their concept. It's not a song they would have written without me, or someone like me. I also wouldn't have written that song without them.

The analogy about "I Write the Songs"; isn't very accurate though. It misrepresents what the other people involved in a project do. They don't make it about them. The focus is ENTIRELY on the artist.

To say CD sales are down at this point, doesn't make much sense. It's not a preferred medium for music consumption right now. News flash, cassette sales are REALLY down. People must be buying less music? They are still consuming. I feel probably more than ever. The money and how it's paid has shifted greatly though.

This is always going to be a very lopsided discussion on a forum such as this. Most of us here are musicians, and/or song writers. If you ask a craft beer maker on a beer crafting forum what he thinks of the domestic brands, the conversation would be similar I would guess.

I thought the article presented was great. I love seeing things like this. Great discussion. Thank you to the OP for posting it! smile
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"That's what"
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#460688 - 03/05/18 01:42 PM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: ManInTwoSocks]
BlueAttitude Offline
Expert

Registered: 11/30/07
Posts: 1389
Loc: Ontario, Canada
+1 on all of your points HTL.

To elaborate a little on the decline of CD sales, CDs were replaced as the medium of choice for most consumers more than 10 years ago by the MP3.

And MP3s have since been replaced by streams. Can you even buy an MP3 player anymore? They were huge back in their day, which wasn’t that long ago.

Most music consumers these day prefer to stream their music via the internet, great choice and the price is right.

Me? I prefer CDs, but then I’m old too :P
_________________________
Dave

Blue Attitude: Homepage, Latest song: Time Flies

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#460829 - 03/06/18 08:30 AM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: ManInTwoSocks]
Deryk - PG Music Offline
PG Music Staff

Registered: 02/15/17
Posts: 1146
This is another effect of the constantly changing music industry. Truth it, music as a whole hasn't changed its approach in terms of how many songwriters are on a song/album - it is just the mainstream music industry. Every single person involved now wants credit. Plus with the boom of the internet age, music is more accessible than ever and top 40 musicians make all their money in different ways - none of which include selling their actual albums. They are a product rather than a musician. It sucks, but it's the entertainment industry.

Thank you for the in depth explanation of your opinion - I am thrilled to hear other's opinions on this smile
_________________________
Cheers,
Deryk

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#460881 - 03/06/18 12:40 PM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: ManInTwoSocks]
Janice & Bud Offline
Veteran

Registered: 12/05/11
Posts: 5763
Loc: GA USA
+ 2 on everything HTL said.

I imagine I'm the oldest guy on this forum and I learned a long ago that time passes and things change. Janice and I will leave the house streaming a favorite Apple playlist, get in the car and continue streaming from where we left off. Love it. I've never engaged in downloading pirated songs, have always bought a license for our covers and don't mind at all paying Apple for the opportunity to listen to about anything we want to hear. Some folks don't like that...guess they'd rather the artists get nothing.

And from my perspective it appears that thousands of artists writing for themselves and producing their songs in high tech home studios are pushing a LOT of their music out to advertising, tv and film via the many placement libraries. Some have literally hundreds of placements. And they are high end placements not the "overhead music" stuff. Take whatcha got and go with it. I see lots of room for solo writers. Maybe not selling a million but what was the percentage of artists that ever came remotely close to that even "back in the day?"

Hey, thanks OP....interesting discussion.
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#460963 - 03/07/18 05:38 AM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: ManInTwoSocks]
BlueAttitude Offline
Expert

Registered: 11/30/07
Posts: 1389
Loc: Ontario, Canada
This is a commercial currently playing in Canada, quite well done I thought:





Edited by BlueAttitude (03/07/18 05:39 AM)
_________________________
Dave

Blue Attitude: Homepage, Latest song: Time Flies

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#460966 - 03/07/18 05:53 AM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: BlueAttitude]
HearToLearn Offline
Expert

Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 1443
Loc: -
Originally Posted By: BlueAttitude
This is a commercial currently playing in Canada, quite well done I thought:






FANTASTIC!! Oh...I am SO going to be able to use this at different points. THANK YOU! smile
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"That's what"
-She

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#460977 - 03/07/18 07:38 AM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: ManInTwoSocks]
Guitarhacker Offline
Veteran

Registered: 04/03/09
Posts: 5664
Many years ago, I was a TAXI member and attended the road rally in LA. Back then, in 09 I think.... they were talking in ALL the writing seminars that hit songs are collaborative efforts rather than solo efforts unless you happen to be a songwriter with a mighty fine track record and a string of hits already.

Even then... the artists often demand writing credit even if they haven't written a single word or note. The number of CD projects being released are dwindling and therefore the number of slots available as well. It's a coveted thing to get a shot at the CD so..... the artist knows this and tells the writer.... I want a cut of the songwriting credit....and money. The writer has a choice.... 100% of nothing or a lesser percentage of a possible hit song on the radio, at least getting a percentage of the sales.

All that aside.... a collab is often a much better song than one that is a solo writer's effort. And with the bar being so freaking high in all genres these days, it's almost a given that you're not going to place a pop song that's a solo write unless you are the artist and you have CLOUT.

That's how I see it, which is why I write for fun, the stuff I post here, and place the rest into music libraries for film and TV...... and even that's getting tighter.
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#461153 - 03/08/18 09:40 AM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: ManInTwoSocks]
Ember - PG Music Offline
PG Music Staff

Registered: 06/19/17
Posts: 809
Loc: Victoria, BC
There are some really interesting points of view being discussed here. Music is an ever evolving creature, and the expectations placed on it and how they want it made in the industry is fascinating in its own way. There are still lots of artists out there who write their own stuff and have success with it, there are also lots of artists who have multiple writers or people who seek out content that would 'suit the image' of their artist, then pay the writer a fee and give them very quiet credit somewhere. Collabs seem to be growing with increasing popularity. Maroon 5 actually released an album recently that's almost entirely (if not wholly) collaborations with just other artists. It must be a really cool experience to work with other artists like that in the industry.

The article you shared was fascinating, and a great conversational piece. Thanks for sharing!


Edited by Ember - PG Music (03/08/18 10:59 AM)
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Cheers,
Ember

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#461158 - 03/08/18 10:27 AM [Songwriting] Re: Solo Hit Songwriters Have Become An Endangered Species [Re: Ember - PG Music]
HearToLearn Offline
Expert

Registered: 08/04/10
Posts: 1443
Loc: -
Originally Posted By: Ember - PG Music
There are some really interesting points of view being discussed here. Music is an ever evolving creature, and the expectations placed on it and how they want it made in the industry is fascinating in its own way. There are still lots of artist out there who right their own stuff and have success with it, there are also lots of artists who have multiple writers or people who seek out content that would 'suit the image' of their artist, then pay the writer a fee and give them very quiet credit somewhere. Collabs seem to be growing with increasing popularity. Maroon 5 actually released an album recently that's almost entirely (if not wholly) collaborations with just other artists. It must be a really cool experience to work with other artists like that in the industry.

The article you shared was fascinating, and a great conversational piece. Thanks for sharing!



Agreed! Look at the charts! I was considering changing my name to "Featuring!" wink
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