In the development of a song from writing to release, production can be the cherry on the cake. Can it also change how the cake should be sliced up? It’s a recurring question and one that I have had a historically evolving view on. When I first sang with bands way back in the 90s, the idea of giving a producer royalties seemed strange, unless they were a heavy hitter whose name would open doors; heavy doors. Fast forward to today, I am now sent tracks by pop producers where I am told ‘the song is almost finished’ and all it needs is the top line. So it has no melody and lyrics, no voice, no chorus, no singalong sections… but it’s almost finished? Yes indeed, times have changed.
As with many things in life, context is everything. If a writer has a killer track completely written, and it hits hard even in basic demo form, why give a producer points? But giving a producer a writing credit can be Idea Of The Week if that track is sitting on the shelf and they bring the extra 5% of magic that makes it worthy of the airwaves. To paraphrase the old proverb, a song in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Modern popular music is about more than the combination of words and melody with chordal and rhythmic arrangement. It’s about whatever conjures up the magic. Try telling someone who grew up on dance music that lyrics are everything. Try telling a hardcore hip hop fan that vocal melody is king. And then look at the profound impact these genres have had on the charts. The role of the producer is as important as ever, if not more so. The Temple Of Song hasn’t disappeared or gone anywhere, but it has changed and it is continuing to do so. Don’t hold on too tightly to the old ideas, but don’t throw them away either. The lines between writing and producing may blur now more than ever, but the end game remains; great songs. Creators should embrace divergent talents and let the lines blur if they need to, it’s still all about creating the best work.
So is production worth % points? Sometimes it’s no. Sometimes it’s yes. Sometimes it’s yes please, pass the cherries.