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Careers In Music: Behind The Song
No matter how fast times change or how quickly technology reshapes the landscape of the music industry, the one thing that remains a constant, and a pretty obvious one at that, is that the entire music business is built on songs. Three-and-a-half odd minutes of magic takes an entire team of people to create and you can be a part of that depending on your skill set. This second part in our music careers series takes a look at what goes into the making of a song.


Songwriters, Musicians And Singers
We’ve clubbed these three job profiles together because they can either be performed by different people or by the artist themselves. There are enough examples of both these scenarios ~ Elvis Presley played the guitar and performed a lot of great songs written by talented songwriters, The Beatles wrote and sang their own songs and played their own instruments, Celine Dion doesn’t play her instruments and writes only occasionally but has lent her extraordinary voice to some memorable hits…you get the idea.

The best way to figure out which of these skills you have is to actually create a song of your own. You might be rubbish at it to begin with, but with training and persistence you might surprise yourself. If you only want to be a songwriter and not a singer, that’s fine too ~ have vocalists demo your songs and showcase your talent for creating a killer hook. If you’re a musician who doesn’t quite fancy also belting it out on stage, there are plenty of opportunities for you to perform ~ you could join a band and try to earn money through live performances or lend your skills as a sessions musician to a studio. If songwriting or playing an instrument is not your thing and you just want to sing, get together with someone who does write songs and sing those!

A useful tip about working in the Indian music industry comes from santoor player/composer Rahul Sharma who has released non-film albums and worked in Bollywood as a music director. He says, “The film experience was very different because there you have to cater to the director’s vision, you have to give him what he wants. Of course there is a lot of imagination involved in making film music and even your own albums, but in films the thing is you cannot really dictate the terms because there are a lot of people involved. It is about teamwork and eventually the director has a say because he knows what he is looking for. So you have to give songs that even the autorickshaw guy will enjoy and at the same time that the guy who goes to the club can also groove to. It is actually about having a knack. I would say you cannot learn how to compose for films. You can learn Indian classical or Western classical music, but you cannot learn how to compose a tune. That is a knack and it is challenging.” His piece of advice ~ “I would say that a person [looking to work professionally in music] would have to have a lot of patience. In today’s times, everyone wants success instantly and that is one factor you have to keep aside. Just be dedicated to your work and then the results will show.”

What exactly does a producer do in the studio? You could say pretty much a little bit of everything ~ drawing out the best performance from the artist, polishing the songwriting to make it most effective, determining the sound of a song, directing the recording sessions, guiding the musicians, interacting with the technical staff in the studio, and in some cases even writing the songs. Though the exact role of a record producer differs from individual to individual, the general idea is that a producer works to bring out the best in the artist and the songs.

Sound, Mixing and Mastering Engineers
These are the good folk that take care of the technical aspects of the translation from songwriting to the actual product. In other words, the band may sound fabulous but if there’s no engineer to record and master the track, you have no song on record. There is a debate on whether you need to have educational qualifications for this role. It is a highly technical job so you will have to know exactly what you’re doing ~ whether you need to go do an engineering course to get this information or whether you want to learn in a studio by watching, assisting, experimenting (in studio down time) and practicing is something you will have to figure out. Be prepared for long hours and hard work ~ there are no shortcuts here but when you become good, the job (and pay) can be very satisfactory.
For a detailed look at these roles, check out Sound On Sound Magazine:

All that serious career talk can be very overwhelming and can make you forget about the lighter side of music. Sure, it takes a lot to get a song out, but it can also be a lot of fun. Here is a short list of some of those instances when it seems like the team behind the song decided to, quite literally, go a little bit crazy. How else do you explain these songwriting gems?

Macarena by Los del Rio
Started out as a song called Magdalena by Spanish singers Antonio Romero Monge and Rafael Ruiz. After watching a beautiful Spanish dancer perform, Romero came up with the chorus of the song on the spot as an ode to her. The duo went back, finished up the song and changed the name to Macarena since there already was a song by the name Magdalena at the time. The song has sold over a 100 million copies to date.

I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred
As cheeky as only the British can be! This 1992 hit by Right Said Fred is an ode by a supremely sexy male model to… well, himself. He struts along singing about how he is too sexy for, among other things, his shirt, his car, your party, and fashion capitals like Milan, New York and Japan…so silly, but so catchy!

You can read the rest of our special feature Careers In Music: Behind The Song in the January 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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