This is a guest post by Mark Snyder of Weekend Warrior Worship: a network of independent artists, songwriters, music industry pros, and like-minded supporters who strive to do one thing well – source the church with great, bible centered worship songs.
Today, Mark Snyder talks about “What Is Backing Up Your Currency?”
Here’s his wonderful insight:
Throughout history, men have debated money – its value and what is behind it. From the early days of money through today, the evils of ‘fiat’ money and the virtues of a currency backed up by gold and silver have been debated. What does this have to do with the music business? Well, as a monetary debate – nothing. But as a way to think about your songs and songwriting, it has everything to do with it.
If you think about it, songs are the ‘currency’ of the music business in many ways. Think about the way music is sold – digitally or physically. The price of a song is about $1, whether bought from a digital retailer or on an album. Albums are typically priced at about $1 a song as well, give or take. So the economic benefit from a project can be directly proportional to the number of songs on it. In other words, songs are the dollar bills, or the currency, of the music business!
But, as we know, not all songs are equal. One killer song can be all it takes to make or break a project, or, in extreme cases, a career. In other words, the content of songs matters. Even more than that though, it’s the intentionality with which songs are approached that can make a real difference how you are perceived as an artist. In other words, how you back up your currency matters – a lot.
Music producers have a lingua fraca all their own. One of the things you hear them talk about sometimes, when they are being frank, is the concept of ‘turd polishing’. Weekend Warrior Worship producer Jeff McCullough even refers to this as hit professional certification – he calls himself a CTP! Music producers use this rather rude term to refer to time spent dressing up subpar or even bad songs to make them sound the best they can. It is because, like anyone working for money, they often do not have the luxury of picking and choosing to only work with songs that are great. This is because the currency of the songs is not backed up with ‘gold’ but instead, songs are being produced to make a certain amount of currency for the project. Or a music project if funded without regard to its merits – the ‘rich Aunt’ syndrome. Bad songs are a fact of life for producers.
I once heard the tale of how Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones approached Michael’s 1982 classic album ‘Thriller’. For younger readers, “Thriller’ remains one of the the most successful albums ever released, selling millions and spawning 7 Hot 100 Billboard hits over 2 years. For the album, Jackson worked together with Quincy Jones and songwriter Rod Temperton writing over 30 songs for the album, before releasing only 9 of them. Jackson remarked that ‘every song had to be a killer’ and deliberately set out to make the ‘record of the year’. After recording, Jones and Jackson spent additional weeks remixing each song until Jackson was satisfied. The point here is that Jackson and Jones were backing their ‘song currency’ on Thriller with solid gold. While our Weekend Warrior Worship project is a far lower profile, we took a similar approach to songwriting and song selection for our EP.
I was recently working with a well known worship songwriter who critiqued a new song. I thought I had a great thing going, but he took it to a whole new level, critiquing the lack of focus in my lyrics, the melodic themes I had going on, everything. His somewhat apologetic comment was: “Maybe it seems like I’m being too nitpicky, but these are the kind of grueling examinations my songs go through. We try to make sure that every single word fits the theme.” The point is, if we want all our songs to attain a level of quality our customers and audience can trust, we need to become songsmiths. If we want to give our diamonds in the rough the best chance to be recognized, we need to learn and apply the craft of songwriting. We need to learn the 3 Rs of songwriting – Rejecting bad songs, Rewriting promising ones, and Recognizing the difference and what needs to be done. We need to fall out of love with our own songwriting talent and fall in love with the craft of songwriting, the art of songwriting. We will spend much more time on this topic as we discuss the indie music business.
We may never have a song that gets beyond a small audience. Or the song may be something that is just an offering to a loved one, or even just to God. Or we may send a song around the world. The point is, we want it to be the best. And, in the music business there is a definite benefit to backing up your ‘song currency’ with gold.
So, what about you? Are your songs fiat currency, destined for a hyperinflationary explosion of indie music mediocrity? Or are they backed up with a store of real value, forged by songsmith(s) working with skill, integrity, and love?
- Mark Snyder