Who wrote what? Recorded where?
- Who played bass on track 7 of the new Beyonce album ?
- Where was the Snow Patrol album recorded?
- Who designed the sleeve to Jay Z’s Blueprint 3?
When was the last time you looked at the credits on an album?
If you’re like me and the 300 MILLION other owners of MP3 players, it’s probably a while since you checked the credits of any album. If you own one of the 9 billion songs that have been downloaded from the Apple iTunes store, there is no way of knowing the answer to any of the questions listed above.
In fact, there is no information relating to the Recording, Musicians, Equipment, Publishing or Thank You’s on any downloadable MP3.
When I first started buying records (vinyl in those days!), one of my favourite pastimes, while listening excitedly to my latest acquisition, was to review the packaging, marvel at the artwork and scour the credits on the inner sleeve.
Ahhh the credits…. Who wrote what? recorded where? and played that Gibson double neck?
The credits drew me in, befriended me, gave me a more personal slant on the music. If I saw a familiar name in the Thank You’s, it felt like I’d been given a secret pass (backstage?) into the bands world. It also gave me blagging rights over my mates as too who knew what, a forerunner to the pop pub quiz perhaps?
From credits, I learnt about the genius of engineers like Bruce Swedien and Tom Dowd, Producers like Nile Rogers, Hank Shocklee and George Martin as well as countless back room musicians and songwriters. These people sparked my imagination to set forth on a path to inspire others, the way they inspired me.
If someone created something wonderful, be it the drum sound or the front cover, then I wanted to know everything about that record and those that had been involved and helped these amazing slabs of art come to life.
The record companies, producers and artists took great pains in correlating this information and making sure it was documented accurately and for all to see on the backs of records and CD’s and for good reason. Of course it’s great to see your name in lights but, more importantly, they knew how imperative it is to stand proud next to the work you’ve done.
It is safe to say that credits help to inspire the making and performing of all future music
Although these same credits are there for all to see on any modern CD release, they are restricted solely to CD’s. Even when you take your CD and burn it in the computer, the credits will not be transferred.
When you download a track from iTunes, it includes ‘meta data’, which provides only the Artist, Track name, Album name, year of recording and genre. There are no spaces for engineer, producer, studio, etc. And let us not forget sleeve design, photo credits, mastering, A+R, or even the label’s name…the list is endless.
Meta data is just simple text.
CD sales are on a steep decline and it is quite possible we will see the demise of the CD within the next 3 years.
This will leave the world of credits in a dire place.
There are websites, e.g. www.discogs.com, where you can find all kinds of info, but its all too disorganized and more importantly its not connected to the listening experience.
It seems strange that, in this world of mass communication and assimilation of info, we are now in a position where we know less about the music we’re listening to then ever before. With iPhones and their ilk, there is a huge opportunity to incorporate a myriad of fascinating information, e.g. interviews with the artist or producer, studio notes or observations from the writer. Imagine spicing up a boring bus commute with an in depth interview with Quincy Jones or Rod Temperton while listening to Thriller.
There are other important issues with the lack of information on recordings. For many years, album credits have been a useful reference for, amongst others, PRS, BMI, PPL, etc. to facilitate the payment of lost royalties. As recording royalties subside and performance royalties increase, a guarantee of who played what on an album becomes a very important source of income for musicians, as well as the Inland Revenue!
Myself and my fellow members of the MPG feel this issue should at least be debated out in the open with a view to garnering the opinions of all those involved; artists, labels, audience and sales alike.
MPG member and winner of this years MPG and Brits Producer of the year, Paul Epworth agrees:
“While a lot of this is information is widely available via the wonder of the web, too much of it is missing and far from accurate. There needs to be a resource that gives the next generation of musicians, producers and artists somewhere to go to find out who to follow!!”
Credit information needs to be incorporated into the listening experience and made accessible for those that wish to know it, need it, and most importantly be inspired by it. We should be proud of the work we do. If we’re not, who will be?
Our fore fathers understood that, why can’t we?