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You can't just be a songwriter Dynamics Processors (HW)
Old 1st August 2014
  #1
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You can't just be a songwriter

True?

I was reading something somewhere, and someone was going on about how "the biz" will not accept anything that isn't fully realized.

This obviously isn't really news, but I got to wondering if anyone is just a songwriter.

Even someone like Diane Warren, who is not my personal cup of tea, but even someone like her would not get anywhere now if she didn't hook up with a production team, or become excellent herself at producing and arranging and mixing.
Old 1st August 2014
  #2
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It's been this way for a pretty long time. In fact Diane Warren has a producer she uses to make her demos more fully realized before sending them out.

Here's an article about it, and it's from 2008, which means she had already been doing things this way for a while before that.

Basically, she writes her stuff with minimal equipment, but hands it to her producer to make it a more polished product that will be sent to artists.

Diane Warren

Scroll down to the second gray box for info about her producer.


I guess my point is that if even someone at her level still needs to do this, it must be pretty important for the rest of us as well.
Old 1st August 2014
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nst7 View Post
It's been this way for a pretty long time. In fact Diane Warren has a producer she uses to make her demos more fully realized before sending them out.

Here's an article about it, and it's from 2008, which means she had already been doing things this way for a while before that.

Basically, she writes her stuff with minimal equipment, but hands it to her producer to make it a more polished product that will be sent to artists.

Diane Warren

Scroll down to the second gray box for info about her producer.


I guess my point is that if even someone at her level still needs to do this, it must be pretty important for the rest of us as well.
I had just read that article!

But she herself is, according to that, inept at technology. She herself is an old school songwriter recording a Walkman! And they mention how things have changed. She's already successful enough to hire someone to do the demos/final tracks.

So I guess, as of sometime during the 2000s, the idea of simply being an old school songwriter died.
Old 1st August 2014
  #4
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Plenty of songwriters are out there, but at the end of the day they're all at the mercy of a good producer (as always, really). But yes there are 100s of pro songwriters out there. Songwriter-onlys. Nothing died in the 2000s!

If you're referring to my other post, it was an artist asking about pitching his own music for placement. That's different than a songwriter pitching to a producer or artist.
Old 1st August 2014
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post
Plenty of songwriters are out there, but at the end of the day they're all at the mercy of a good producer (as always, really). But yes there are 100s of pro songwriters out there. Songwriter-onlys. Nothing died in the 2000s!
Who?

Quote:
If you're referring to my other post, it was an artist asking about pitching his own music for placement. That's different than a songwriter pitching to a producer or artist.
Was not referring to your post.

So there are songwriters who pitch songs successfully without demoing them all up?
Old 1st August 2014
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
Who?
Just go to any publisher and look at their roster. Many of these are writer-only: https://www.sonyatv.com/index.php/ar.../artist_writer

Or wiki any song and you can see who are writer-only: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandelier_(Sia_song)

Writer(s)
Sia Furler Jesse Shatkin
Producer(s)
Greg Kurstin Jesse Shatkin

Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
So there are songwriters who pitch songs successfully without demoing them all up?
Generally the songwriter works with the producer on the demo. There's a loop of published songwriters and producers that are always collaborating in sessions together. So the songwriter has many opportunities to show up to a session with sketches of their ideas. Producers and artists are also often looking for "piano tracks" which is a barebone piano and vocal, or acoustic guitar and vocal.
Old 1st August 2014
  #7
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I think you're misunderstanding his post. He's not asking about writer/producers, he's talking about the need for songwriters who are not producers to still have professionally made demos that sound like a finished record. From what I can see, this is the norm and has been for quite a while. It is very rare for a raw demo to be sent to an artist for consideration.
Old 1st August 2014
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nst7 View Post
I think you're misunderstanding his post. He's not asking about writer/producers, he's talking about the need for songwriters who are not producers to still have professionally made demos that sound like a finished record. From what I can see, this is the norm and has been for quite a while. It is very rare for a raw demo to be sent to an artist for consideration.
True, no one's sending rough demos to an artist unless they already have a relationship with them. (I imagine that's most always been the case, no? If the artist doesn't know you, make your song sound amazing first? Warren obviously built relationships, and artists knew who she was, and even still she presented her work as best as she could.)

But the songwriter most definitely exists! All a songwriter needs is to be in the loop and they can sketch out ideas till their heart is content and play them for a producer or their publisher to send to a producer. Its all about relationships.

The song I'm producing now started as a iPhone recording by a songwriter singing while strumming a guitar. She sent it to me, I liked the idea, we developed it further together, and I'm producing it up to pitch. The songwriter pitches to the producer. The final production then gets pitched to the artist/label.
Old 1st August 2014
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post

The song I'm producing now started as a iPhone recording by a songwriter singing while strumming a guitar. She sent it to me, I liked the idea, we developed it further together, and I'm producing it up to pitch. The songwriter pitches to the producer. The final production then gets pitched to the artist/label.
This is essentially what I'm talking about. A songwriter must either produce their songs themselves to a nearly finished state, or connect with or hire or team up with a production team to "develop" it further. The song itself is not finished until it's "produced".

How did the songwriter connect with you? Does the songwriter have a publishing deal? Does the songwriter have sole credit on the song you are going to pitch?

I believe in the past, it was more common for a songwriter to be able to get somewhere without having to get involved to such a degree with the production end.

But the idea is, just like with Diane Warren, her production team produces the song up to the point that those tracks are often the final product. I assume though, that since she was already established, they don't get songwriter credit.

But it seems it would be nearly impossible now for someone to simply write a great song, make a simple demo on piano or guitar, and send it to a publisher or an artist, and get anywhere. They have to get involved with production first.

So in other words, production is songwriting.
Old 1st August 2014
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
But it seems it would be nearly impossible now for someone to simply write a great song, make a simple demo on piano or guitar, and send it to a publisher or an artist, and get anywhere.
That happens constantly. Songwriters send their piano/guitar tracks to their publishers all the time, who look for ways to turn them into cuts however they can.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
So in other words, production is songwriting.
Production is always a huge part of the song, ie George Martin the 5th Beatle. The process of creating a song involves considerably more than the vocal and chord progression. The writers of the vocals/chords have their role, but it doesn't end there.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
How did the songwriter connect with you? Does the songwriter have a publishing deal? Does the songwriter have sole credit on the song you are going to pitch?
We were connected through a publisher, and I've produced some of her records. She only sent the beginning of an idea, so I'll have credit for helping finish it.

If she had sent a full song that didn't involve a creative production then she could argue for full songwriting credit which I'd give, but I'd probably take a small but significant enough publishing cut for my role.
Old 1st August 2014
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post
That happens constantly. Songwriters send their piano/guitar tracks to their publishers all the time, who look for ways to turn them into cuts however they can.
So who are all these famous new songwriters that don't get involved in any sort of production?

There are people, like the songwriter you are producing, who get sole credit for writing songs, who get publishing deals, the whole deal, simply by writing songs?

According to what I was reading, that doesn't happen anymore. They were saying the "biz" wants to hear a final product. A piano/guitar demo will not cut it.

Quote:
Production is always a huge part of the song, ie George Martin the 5th Beatle. The process of creating a song involves considerably more than the vocal and chord progression. The writers of the vocals/chords have their role, but it doesn't end there.
Production was a huge part of record making.

Not, traditionally, songwriting.
Old 1st August 2014
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post

We were connected through a publisher, and I've produced some of her records.
She's a recording artist?
Old 1st August 2014
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
So who are all these famous new songwriters that don't get involved in any sort of production?

There are people, like the songwriter you are producing, who get sole credit for writing songs, who get publishing deals, the whole deal, simply by writing songs?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
She's a recording artist?

Its very rare to find a songwriter who isn't also a record artist to some degree, and that doesn't get involved in production or the instrumentation (which is now all on the producer, where it used to be a band) to some degree.

There never really was, this is nothing new: Major Songwriters of the 1960s - Rate Your Music

Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
Production was a huge part of record making.

Not, traditionally, songwriting.
The traditional role of the producer has changed. He's the entire band now! So he ends up involved in songwriting the way the guitarist often would.
Old 1st August 2014
  #14
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Check the new Sia song, "Chandelier": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandelier_(Sia_song)

The writers are Sia Furler and Jesse Shatkin.

The producers are Greg Kurstin and Jesse Shatkin.

This gives you a pretty good idea of how the song was written and produced: Sia is a singer/songwriter and Jesse is an songwriter/instrumentalist with some production ability. The two of them sat down and composed a song together. Then Jesse laid down a demo with Sia and whatever instrumentation he came up with.

They then kicked this to Greg Kurstin, an amazing producer, who used some of the parts Jesse recorded and maybe involved him in finishing it up, so Jesse got co-production credit. Greg only gets production credit, because they brought him a full song.

I would definitely agree with you though that overall the role of the producer has expanded. But I don't think things are that much different for the songwriter.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #15
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So I'm still trying to figure out if all these songwriters are getting somewhere without getting involved in production first, as opposed to after.

I'm pretty sure that all those old school people would get, for example, a publishing deal based solely on their songs, and then their songs would get "produced", demos paid for by the publisher, records paid for by the record company who's artists recorded the songs.

Whereas now, it seems it's more common and/or expected that a songwriter must do all that first. As in the Diane Warren situation. She is presenting finished products for people to record their vocals over.

And for a band, seems to me the deal is you must not only have finished albums, but sales and fans and the whole 9 going before a label would even be interested.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
So I'm still trying to figure out if all these songwriters are getting somewhere without getting involved in production first, as opposed to after.
The vast majority of "songwriters" are "artists" who haven't made it big, but made a splash enough to land a publishing deal. Most get discovered the same way every musician does: by hitting the streets, getting their name out there, playing shows, collaborating, starting projects, etc, etc. . . just being an active musician out in the world.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
I'm pretty sure that all those old school people would get, for example, a publishing deal based solely on their songs, and then their songs would get "produced", demos paid for by the publisher, records paid for by the record company who's artists recorded the songs.
Who? What unknown songwriter mailed in an unproduced recording of them singing a song and got a publishing deal at any point in time? There may be a few cases, but real-world there just aren't these isolated songwriters who only do demos by themselves with a guitar, now or in the past. Most songwriters are active musicians, going out to shows, hanging with other musicians, and putting music out at the best quality they can. Given how available decent production is these days, it becomes rather natural to learn about production, and get your good songs produced properly by a producer who's a friend and collaborator who believes in and is inspired by the cut.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post
The vast majority of "songwriters" are "artists" who haven't made it big, but made a splash enough to land a publishing deal. Most get discovered the same way every musician does: by hitting the streets, getting their name out there, playing shows, collaborating, starting projects, etc, etc. . . just being an active musician out in the world.



Who? What unknown songwriter mailed in an unproduced recording of them singing a song and got a publishing deal at any point in time? There may be a few cases, but real-world there just aren't these isolated songwriters who only do demos by themselves with a guitar, now or in the past. Most songwriters are active musicians, going out to shows, hanging with other musicians, and putting music out at the best quality they can. Given how available decent production is these days, it becomes rather natural to learn about production, and get your good songs produced properly by a producer who's a friend and collaborator who believes in and is inspired by the cut.
I'm not talking about being "active" or not, I'm talking about whether there are songwriters who are having to produce up their "demos" on their own coin, and how that is a make or break factor. And that, as Diane Warren now has to do, have her tracks produced to such a degree so people can hear it as a final product.

As far as my question on who goes, on one hand you are saying songwriters are getting deals by simply being "active", but then saying no one has ever gotten any sort of deal without a produced recording.

And as far as your who goes, I don't know off hand, I can search around, but I'm guessing every single songwriter ever prior to all this available decent production.

Seems to me, it used to be only albums got produced, as that was generally an expensive endeavor, and any sort of demo would be just that. Nothing more than a demo.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
I'm not talking about being "active" or not, I'm talking about whether there are songwriters who are having to produce up their "demos" on their own coin, and how that is a make or break factor. And that, as Diane Warren now has to do, have her tracks produced to such a degree so people can hear it as a final product.
You asked how songwriters get publishing deals. The answer is RARELY "mail in a demo." Its by being an active musician in the world and making an impact. As always in the music business.

Again, as far as producing up "demos" its all about relationships. If you're friends with the artist, then send then whatever you like. That happens all the time. iPhone voicenotes are increasingly popular.

Diane Warren's current song-selling strategy isn't the best example, she's not exactly highly sought after in 2014, she's a legacy act doing her own thing. But trust that Sia, Ester Dean, and Bonnie McKee send voicenotes of their ideas to people.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
And as far as your who goes, I don't know off hand, I can search around, but I'm guessing every single songwriter ever prior to all this available decent production.
That's just not how the music world works. Again, the vast majority of songwriters are artists themselves, or used to be. They got publishing deals because they were out in the music world doing things that people like.

Again, look at this list of 60s writers, they're almost all artists themselves: Major Songwriters of the 1960s - Rate Your Music

Back in the day you needed an amazing "live performance." So most songwriters were performers, and collaborated with other performers (their band) to execute their songs well. Now you need an amazing "production" so many songwriters are producers or collaborate with producer to execute their song well.

But you've ALWAYS needed to be able to present your songs well. The music business has ALWAYS been about going above-and-beyond to stand out from everyone else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
Seems to me, it used to be only albums got produced, as that was generally an expensive endeavor, and any sort of demo would be just that. Nothing more than a demo.
You can produce a demo in your bedroom that's 85% of a fully polished production mixed by the best in the world. Technology has indeed made it to where if you're NOT producing your songs to sound good, you're getting left behind.

Competition for published-writer slots has always been tough, and you've always had to outshine everyone else. Presentation has and always will matter significantly.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #19
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Newguy, I think the perception is that there are many people who are just songwriters only, because we often just start seeing their co-writing credits on records, and have no knowledge of where they came from. An example would be Kara DioGuardi. It's like she just started showing up on record credits one day. It seems there's a lot of people like that. You can go back to the records of the 70's and 80's as well, and it just seems like a million anonymous names on records. We just don't know their story or how they got there. It may be that the perception is different than the reality.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #20
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From my experience, newguy1 is pretty on-point with this.
Nowadays, being able to produce is a valuable skill that more and more writers are developing a competence in. That said, in Nashville at least, there are certainly writers on salary with publishing companies who turn in guitar/vocal demos with lyric sheets. If the publishing company wants to present that song to an artist, they'll create a polished demo.
Not really sure the point of the line of questioning though. If you're a writer who's out there making connections, you'll find a way to create good-sounding demos. Gaining skills in the production realm will be useful too. It's all moving towards creating a valuable product.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nst7 View Post
Newguy, I think the perception is that there are many people who are just songwriters only, because we often just start seeing their co-writing credits on records, and have no knowledge of where they came from. An example would be Kara DioGuardi. It's like she just started showing up on record credits one day. It seems there's a lot of people like that. You can go back to the records of the 70's and 80's as well, and it just seems like a million anonymous names on records. We just don't know their story or how they got there. It may be that the perception is different than the reality.
Well, I can say that Kara, at least, didn't just appear on credits one day. These names may seem 'anonymous' now, but folks in the industry knew who they were. For what it's worth, she's an incredibly skilled songwriter with a discography of her own.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post
Technology has indeed made it to where if you're NOT producing your songs to sound good, you're getting left behind.
This is mainly what I'm talking about.

IMO, this has changed what most, or many, songwriters are about, and even what songwriting itself is about.

Is it a good thing?

I don't think so.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #22
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I looked at that list of 60s songwriters (for someone who doesn't like talking about the past, you sure reference it a lot), and scanning it I saw Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It took me all of 2 seconds to find an interview with them where they said:

When I quit college, I looked him up (a publisher). I had already about five or six songs written just for myself, but I never thought I'd end up being a songwriter. I played him five songs, and he said, "Well, go cut a demo." I said, "What's a demo?" He explained it, and he ended up hiring the musicians for me. We cut a demo of this one song called "The Ecstasy of Love."

Point being, not only did he not know what a demo was, but the publisher paid for the demo.

He didn't hire a producer or record demos on his own or buy a DAW and thousands of dollars in recording gear.

He played the piano and wrote some songs and walked in.

Regarding these Kara DioGuardi types, as far as I see, she has never written a song by herself. Can she even play an instrument? I don't know. But this whole artist/songwriter who writes with a producer is another thing that seems very common. Whereas old school songwriters didn't need a producer. George Martin didn't co-write Beatle songs. He produced records.

So I think, while there are aspects that haven't changed, those are irrelevant and not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the aspects that have changed.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #23
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A very basic thing to consider: most of the work of even professional songwriters is mediocre at best.

The likelihood that you're going to write a track that's going to sound like an undeniable hit with just vocals and piano/guitar is remote. And if you can actually do that, people are going to be jumping over each other to collaborate with you anyway.

It's even more unlikely that you're spontaneously going to write a popular song off the bat, without spending months or years working your way into the industry. And getting access to collaborators, proper recording studios and gear in the process.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
This is mainly what I'm talking about.

IMO, this has changed what most, or many, songwriters are about, and even what songwriting itself is about.

Is it a good thing?

I don't think so.
The method of working in and of itself is not a terrible thing. But the fact that it has become a defacto standard is downright awful for music. It has led to inane "beat with top line/hook methodologies ad-nauseum. Music being made, in essence, by people who can't actually write a "real" song.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #25
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I think the most interesting songwriters aren't professional writers like Diane Warren. In fact, I find her music quite boring, and even annoying. The best writers are just people who got out there and do it... from Chvrches to Laura Marling, Tallest Man On Earth to The Rocket Summer, Nada Surf to Christopher Willits.... just do it, people. Make it happen. There are so many beautiful and perfect songs, and a lot of them are by people who you've never heard of.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #26
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Doule

Last edited by newguy1; 2nd August 2014 at 06:28 PM.. Reason: Double
Old 2nd August 2014
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murray View Post
. But this whole artist/songwriter who writes with a producer is another thing that seems very common. Whereas old school songwriters didn't need a producer.
Old school songwriters had to PERFORM their songs. New school have to PRODUCE their songs.

That's the main difference. PRESENTATION has always mattered, which is what performance and production are: methods of presentation. "Just" pro songwriters still exist by the 100s, but they've ALWAYS had the need for a good presentation of their work.

In your outlier example above, if Barry Mann had been unable to perform his songs well to a publisher, then he wouldn't have gotten the deal. Songwriting is an intellectual act, its needs one of its partners, either performance or production, to even exist off paper! So the songwriter HAS to know more than just songwriting (or else collaborate) to bring his song to life.

Demos are too cheap and easy these days for a songwriter to not have them, so that's what pub companies now look for to sign new people. Its almost like, how do you NOT have a decent demo in 2014?? I'm sure if someone created enough of a buzz for their live performance though, pub companies would come check them out and sign them if they were any good.

I agree there are differences now. But disagree with your premise that the songwriter is dead, as I personally know a great great many, and there are publishing rosters full of them.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #28
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Murray, I think you overestimate how much things have changed. In the end, a great song is what counts. The songwriters I write with in Nashville still get up every morning with coffee and a guitar to pen a great song. Yes, there are new skill-sets that can help open doors. I've done a decent amount of top-lining over pop tracks, which is a (relatively) new way of writing.

And creegstor, "Music being made, in essence, by people who can't actually write a "real" song" doesn't make it onto the radio. Again, Murray keeps using Kara Dioguardi as an example, and she is an incredibly skilled melody writer and lyricist. To denounce these writers as not 'real' just because they're good at collaborating with producers and write in a certain genre is myopic and, quite frankly, laughable if you've interacted with any of them. That level of success doesn't come easily.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy1 View Post
Old school songwriters had to PERFORM their songs. New school have to PRODUCE their songs.

That's the main difference. PRESENTATION has always mattered, which is what performance and production are: methods of presentation. "Just" pro songwriters still exist by the 100s, but they've ALWAYS had the need for a good presentation of their work.

In your outlier example above, if Barry Mann had been unable to perform his songs well to a publisher, then he wouldn't have gotten the deal. Songwriting is an intellectual act, its needs one of its partners, either performance or production, to even exist off paper! So the songwriter HAS to know more than just songwriting (or else collaborate) to bring his song to life.

Demos are too cheap and easy these days for a songwriter to not have them, so that's what pub companies now look for to sign new people. Its almost like, how do you NOT have a decent demo in 2014?? I'm sure if someone created enough of a buzz for their live performance though, pub companies would come check them out and sign them if they were any good.

I agree there are differences now. But disagree with your premise that the songwriter is dead, as I personally know a great great many, and there are publishing rosters full of them.
My premise is the songwriter is dead?

I'm basically talking about the difference between "presenting" a demo in a simple unadorned way versus producing it to the degree that it sounds finished.

Many people feel a song shows it's worth when performed simply, without any bells and whistles. A good song doesn't need a beat, or an awesome singer, and so on. A bad production can ruin a good song. A good production can make a bad song seem a lot better than it is.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by themixtape View Post
I think the most interesting songwriters aren't professional writers like Diane Warren. In fact, I find her music quite boring, and even annoying.
Yes, I said she wasn't my cup of tea. she's just an example. Even she, an old school writer, has to hire someone to produce up her songs to a finished degree to present them. If she were coming up now, she'd either have to co-write with a producer, or learn how to use technology.
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