One of the common things that comes up during episodes of Music Business Radio is something I call "life of a song." This can mean a number of things, but usually refers to:
- Recordings that are so popular they receive airplay years after their initial release dates
- Recordings on a "classic" albums that continue to sell consistently, years after being released
- Songs that are covered again and again - sometimes in the same genre, sometime not
- Recordings that are licensed years later to movies, television, and/or commercials
The stories that come up are as unique as the songs (and songwriters) affected. Sometimes the result of something like this is big paycheck for the songwriter and publisher, but sometimes things goes way beyond that and can totally rejuvenate careers of the original artists, allowing them to tour more successfully and record/release new material.
But it goes way beyond that... In fact, I believe that "life of a song" is actually what's going to keep the music business going.
Music is one of those things where, when you hear a song that you like, you want to hear songs that are similar. It's very similar to surfing Amazon.com, finding something you need, seeing the "People Who Purchased This Product Also Purchased These Products," and finding more things that you suddenly can't live without. You didn't realize you "needed" them because you didn't know they existed.
As we get deeper and deeper into music technology, and it becomes easier and easier to record and distribute music, there will be more and more noise to cut through. But it's also easier and easier to find out about new artists (and old artists), if you know what you're looking for...
And that is why "life of a song" is important...it lets you know what you're looking for, even if you didn't know you were looking for it.
So when a dance music fan hears this in a club...
He can now ask the question, "I wonder what that sample was?" And find this...
Now, the guy is "into" R&B music. When when he looks deeper into Gwen McRae, he's going to find she covers Bobby Bland...and that leads him to look into blues. And where did blues music come from? It goes on and on...
Obviously, not everybody into house music is going to go this deep, but some will. And when things work like this, it leads to more money for publishers, labels, artists, songwriters, and everybody in the music business. It also exposes new writers and artists to styles of music that will affect what they're creating. Then the cycle starts over again...
I get emails and calls from musicians that don't like to sample and don't like to cover songs. When I ask them what they sound like, they can't name a similar act because they "don't sound like anybody else." This is hilarious to me.
Think you don't sound like anybody else? Think again... If you're playing a 4/4 time signature and playing a major scale or open chords on a guitar tuned EADGBE, you sound like somebody else. Don't fight it! And since you sound like somebody else, why not go a little deeper?
If you like Beatles, don't be afraid to copy them. If you like Rage Against the Machine, don't act like you're the only musician doing socio-political rock music. Instead, embrace the fact that everything we do as musicians is influenced (in a big way) from somebody that came before us and go with it.
Your biggest enemy is that your songs will never get heard. Never. Being open to copying and being bold in acknowledging influences not only helps the music business, it's also good for your fans, since it gives them something to grasp onto that cuts through all the noise they have to deal with.
So do your fans (and the music business) a favor by copying something right now.
Thoughts? Post 'em below...