If you’re of a certain age, you remember sliding out the little leaflet thingy in a CD and looking at the pictures, lyrics, and maybe even checking out the credits. If you’re of an even more certain age, you remember doing this with vinyl LP’s and while you didn’t appreciate it at the time, you’d geek out and read all of the ‘fine print’ including engineers, additional musicians, the address of the bands management, and maybe even where the thing was recorded.
They kept costs down by recreating just the outside packaging, and skimped on the inside because only nerds like to read.
That ended ages ago. First of all, when CD’s became the standard, everything went down to a quarter of the size, fair enough – but if you were a member of Columbia House, or BMG Music Service (who?) maybe that CD insert was just blank on the inside, which also describes how you’d feel when you saw the lack of effort they put into the packaging. They kept costs down by recreating just the outside packaging, and skimped on the inside because only nerds like to read.
That brings us to the streaming age. Anyone who doesn’t believe that we’re firmly in it with no turning back, is either just awoken from a five year coma, or has a stake in a CD production plant.
Whats the difference?
It might not seem like a big deal if you’ve never had the credits and experienced reading something while you’ve enjoyed repeated listens, but those who have, remember the connection that they provided. The great thing about music sometimes is finding the common thread between things you like, and discovering why you like them in the first place. Who actually wrote this song? Was the producer on this album the same guy who produced another one in your collection? Did you know that Patrick Carney from the Black Keys wrote, produced and played drums on the most recent Michelle Branch record? Of course not because there aren’t any credits anywhere! I only know because I read about the album before it came out, but what percentage of music fans do that on a regular basis? Who actually has time to or wants to? The answer is 0. The problem with doing everything on your computer is that you do everything on your computer.
What’s making this more of an issue lately is the fact that we’re in such a collaborative phase of songwriting.
Trying to consume just a little bit of information is like taking a sip from a firehose. You’ve been trained to skip details in favour of skimming the headlines. So and so has a new album? Great! Lemme skip through the first three tracks and see if I like it! No questions asked.
Songwriters are suffering
It’s bad enough that streaming sites are being blamed for the lack of revenue generated for content creators, they’re also not letting them get their due by hiding their names from the public. Chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Martin Bandier recently called out Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube for not giving actual songwriters ‘proper public recognition for the songwriter and what they do’. What’s making this more of an issue lately is the fact that we’re in such a collaborate phase of songwriting. Every song on current Billboard Hot 100 is a co-write. Every single one of them. The only ones you’re aware of having more than one creator, are the ones with a ‘feat.’ credit. As far as the actual writing, and samples or interpolations used, you’d only discover from either sites like www.whosampled.com, or from your dad yelling at the radio ‘that’s a Steely Dan sample!’ It’s hard to believe that we have streaming services that can deliver any song, any time, right into your phone, yet somehow they don’t identify the songwriter of the current track playing. The laziness is breeding an indifference that’s going to be hard to reverse as time goes on.
Who doesn’t mind?
Popstars. It probably looks better if you get all the credit for ‘making’ your latest hit. Classical music has been complaining for years about missing metadata in content sold in iTunes.
Who does mind?
Songwriters. Also, the head of Sony/ATV, Martin Bandier. At a recent conference on the topic, he said; “Far too often the songwriter’s contribution is overlooked or even forgotten. I have no doubt that this lack of public recognition has played a major part in why songwriters are not treated on an equal basis as the recording artist.”. You can read more of his comments here.
In the meantime, keep listening, and reading what you can find.