Why Songs are More Important Than Recordings
by Alex Cosper (10/20/14)
If you're a music fan and you've never written or performed music then there's a chance that you don't know about the difference between a song and a recording. If you do know, then you're very perceptive because this topic rarely comes up at parties, regular discussions or in media. But if you're a songwriter or musician who understands the music industry then there's a good chance you already know why songs are more important that recordings. Even though almost every hit on the radio can be classified as both a song and a recording, there is still a difference, which is why there are separate awards for them each year at the Grammys.
In the first place, songs make much more money than recordings, assuming the recording of the song is a hit. If it's not a hit there's still a chance that someday someone will cover the song and make it a hit, which is great for the songwriter. When a hit is recorded by an artist that is not the songwriter you can usually bet that the songwriter made more money off the hit than the artist, unless the artist does a lot of touring, has a big name and commands a certain value, which is rare. In the music industry revenue streams are separate for songwriters and artists, even if they are the same entity.
A hit recording may only last six months and then burn out. But the songwriter may decide to further capitalize on the song by having a different artist record it. At one time it was common for songwriters or publishers to try to get their songs covered by as many artists as possible, which brought them multiple marketing channels and multiple revenue streams. The song "Yesterday" by The Beatles, for example, is one of the most covered songs in history. During that era many other Lennon and McCartney songs were covered by many other artists, just as many different artists have covered "Louie Louie," a hit by The Kingsmen that was originally written by Richard Berry.
The creation of a hit usually begins with songwriting. Songs are usually written before entering the studio and then enhanced in the studio with layers of music and sounds. Many times a hit is based on the song's melody. It is the core melody and lyrics that make up the song in its pure form. Ideally, the song will be strong enough that people will remember it because of its lyrics or fun musical qualities.
Writing a song that a lot of other bands want to cover does involve writing music in a form that is widely understood in the world of musicians. The music of the 20st century was promoted to wider audiences than today which was a big reason a song could be covered in various genres. If you're a songwriter, then ideally each song you write should be marketed in ways beyond one recording. The more profitable musicians these days market items beyond music CDs.
For a song that has merit, it should be thought of as more than a recording. The following other things that come to mind for every well written song beyond a recording include:
- video game
- a play or film
- album ad
- a virtual tour
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