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It’s The Songs, Stupid!

May 19, 2009

Not a day goes by without me saying this several times: “it’s all about songs!” When people buy music they buy songs. Although it may look like they are selecting an artist, it’s the songs that move consumers to buy. If you don’t believe this, how do you explain when albums by famous artist fail to sell? They surely did not forget how to sing. Lack of good songs is generally the reason.

If there is something the music industry is going to need in these uncertain times, it’s good songwriters and good songs. Especially now that we are back to sell singles, we are going to need ten good songs in each album.
We know that, for a number of reasons, Latino consumers have not been able to keep up with songs purchasing in the internet to this day, compared with the mainstream market. But sooner rather than later, that is going to change. So now is the time to recognize the fact that it’s all about the songs. And if Latino record labels, artists, producers, A&R executives and managers do not value songwriting, they are bound for big disappointments.

Songwriters are the backbone of the record industry. Underappreciated and undervalued, always in the shadow of the big stars that are mass-marketed by the industry, they are the ones who can save the business. Just ask radio stations or radio programmers what they think about it: they will unanimously tell you, it’s all about the songs!
Yes, the performers, arrangements, musicians, producers, engineers and all others in the production chain are important. But all that, without a good song, will not make an album sell. Yet the opposite can happen: a good song could eventually sell without some of the elements mentioned above.

Songwriters and songs are the first link in the process of creating an album. The effective date to go to the studio is when the repertoire is defined and agreed upon, not when the release date says so. So many times in the Latin market we have seen albums been recorded without the right songs, or the right A&R work, pressured by deadlines or quarter releases. Now, more than ever, recording projects should have a very well thought-out A&R work.

Lately, we are witnessing a dangerous trend among some performers: they’re asking songwriters for a piece of their songs, or a co-writers percentage to select a song to be recorded. This is not only a sign of the economic hardship experienced by all sectors of the music business, but also a lapse in ethics not seen before in the Latin music industry. If it’s not stopped immediately by the labels, this trend will lead artist to record only songs obtained by these coercive methods, as opposed to the best ones, with the logical consequence that albums will be released to the market with one or two good songs. The result? Lack of physical product sales on the few remaining retail stores, and poor singles sales through the internet retailers.

So we, as Independent Music Publishers, have the responsibility of helping our songwriters to navigate the perilous waters of the economic recession with dignity and respect. The whole spectrum of the industry has to realize …It’s the songs, stupid!
©2009 Maximo Aguirre

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