Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Songwriting – a nice way of spending an evening with your guitar or piano, plucking some chords and finding sweet melodies that are easy to remember. Add some lyrics about love and that’s we create a song. Then, you bring the song to your band and each of the members adds their own part.
That’s how it looked like 50 years ago. The music business has changed and is often referred as Music Industry 2.0 where everything seems to be turned upside down. Our times of globalisation require frequent and quick actions – this attitude affects not only banks but also everything that we know as “art”. Nowadays, art is about business. Fashion industry, to create more income, divided two-seasonal year (Winter/Autumn and Spring/Summer) into four, adding Resort and Pre-Fall.
The same thing happened to our music industry. It’s still evolving, so it’s not only about what to promote but how to do it. With the premiere of 20/20, Justin Timberlake had to decide whether to stick to the industry standard of releasing the whole album or to follow the newer trend of releasing singles. But, nowadays the business pushed the artists to focus on singles rather than the whole albums. It’s all about buzzing and keeping interested of the fans.
And now the question appears – who writes all those singles? Because it’s not about choosing the best song from the album. Every single song released must be a hit. Every hit has to have a strong hook, great and catchy melody, groove, interesting arrangement and everything packed into a smart and neatly package called “track” or “production”.
The modern business created two new types of jobs. First, the re-designed role of music producer and a brand new one – top liners. Nowadays, a producer is someone producing a track from scratch. Whether it’s a melodic idea or just simple chord progression – they decide how the whole production sounds, they “design” sounds by shaping the timbre of a synth, they “program” drums, they use automation and certain guidelines (which are maintained by so-called Hit Machine – a computer script deciding whether a song will be a hit or not). They produce a “track”. When the track is produced, it has no melody nor lyrics. Then the top-liner comes. These are the people who get Grammy awards for the best songs. They listen to a track and improvise song lines directly to a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). After the recording session is finished, the producers choose the best fragments and “comp” them to create the catchiest version of the song.
As you can see, the songs are produced totally from the opposite side. First, the arrangement and instrumental. Then, the melody and lyrics. That’s how SIA writes her songs at the moment – she receives around twenty tracks a week and chooses the best ones. She creates lines and lyrics. It’s all about feeling the trends. She takes the tracks that are likely to be hit. There is an interesting article about this modern approach. You can read it here: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/03/26/the-song-machine
If you want to know more, there is an article that expands on the music production side of the vocals: Composing Realistic Parts for Recording in Studio"