Inside the Dirty Business of Hit Songwriting

Telekhovskyi/Adobe Stock

(via Variety) by Jem Aswad

Sixty-four years ago, as Elvis Presley’s career reached its supernova stage, the 21-year-old singer’s team hit on a strategy that enabled him to profit from songwriting without actually writing songs. His management and music publisher had added Presley’s name to the credits on a couple of his early hits, but the singer wasn’t comfortable with the practice and frequently told interviewers that he had “never written a song in my life.” Instead, as recounted in Peter Guralnick’s authoritative biography “Last Train to Memphis,” his team set up an arrangement whereby the King skipped the credit but received one-third of the songwriting royalties for each song he released, no matter who wrote it. (This arrangement was confirmed to Variety by an industry source familiar with the catalog.)

According to Dolly Parton, the policy not only was still in practice nearly two decades later, but the King’s ransom had gotten even bigger. Presley was going to cover Parton’s 1974 hit “I Will Always Love You,” which is now one of the top-selling and most-performed songs of all time, largely thanks to Whitney Houston’s epochal 1992 cover.

“I was so excited, Elvis wanted to meet me and all that,” she recalled in a September 2020 interview on the “Living & Learning With Reba McEntire” podcast. “And the night before the session, Colonel Tom [Parker, Presley’s longtime manager] called me and said, ‘You know, we don’t record anything with Elvis unless we have at least half the publishing.’ I said, ‘I can’t do that.’ And he said, ‘Well, then we can’t do it.’ And I cried all night, ‘cause I’d just pictured Elvis singing it. I know it wasn’t [his decision], but it’s true. I said ‘no.’”

Read more: Inside the Dirty Business of Hit Songwriting – Variety

“Track and Hook”: The Death of Creativity in Songwriting?

(via The Pudding)

“Track-and-hook” is Seabrook’s coinage for a music-making method that fundamentally distinguishes today’s music-making from all that came before. What separates track-and-hook from its predecessors is how the music is made. The storied, solitary figure working out musical problems at a piano while filling up an ashtray has been replaced by teams of digital production specialists and subspecialists, each assigned to a snare track, a bass track, and so on, mixed and matched and stuck together like Legos.
“The process doesn’t lend itself very well to art,” Seabrook said. Instead, track-and-hook is far more literally factory-like, a mode of production that emphasizes specialization and volume. As the technology writer Nicholas Carr wrote, “The manufacture of pop songs has been so thoroughly industrialized that it makes the old Motown ‘hit factory’ look like a sewing circle.”
Read more:

https://pudding.cool/2018/05/similarity/

____________________________________________

Our thoughts on this: As Gary Trust writes in Billboard“A Bacharach melody is not inviting people to get involved with it. But track-and-hook creates a template for a lot of different cooks stirring the broth.”

We think the first part of this statement is key. If you were Bacharach, McCartney or Elvis Costello, you wouldn’t want a lot of cooks stirring your broth. While track-and-hook involves more participants, the potential for Bacharach-like greatness is negated. We live in an era of songwriting homogeneity, but not much music that rises above the artistic mean.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: