24 February 2010

Song Writing Factories – Did You Know About Them?

There’s a tune on TV at the moment which I just love. It’s the Ford Focus advert music and I decided it would make a great ringtone for my iPhone. (See YouTube clip below). But what I job I had in finding the music on the internet. Eventually, after lots of Google searching I found out that the music is by a ‘group’ called ‘The Cool Hearts’ and the music track is called ‘Halfway Home’. Further research indicated that the writer (of the music) was a guy called Morgan Van Dam. Wrong! Morgan Van Dam is a music production company based in Soho, London and they specialize in writing music for adverts such as the recent one for Ford. They’ve also written the music ads for McDonalds, Shell, Citroen and many other leading brand adverts and it was after a bit of digging on this that I discovered the world of ‘music factories’.

I had always assumed that music was generally written by a single person who maybe used an arranger to fine-tune the melody. I had also known that many songs were collaborations between more than one person – e.g. Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Lennon and MCartney etc. What I hadn’t realized is that these ‘music factories’ exist to churn out tunes and songs by the dozen on a weekly basis. I suspect if you managed to get a glimpse inside the Soho factory, you’d find guys and girls sitting in booths just staring into space dreaming up great, catchy tunes. Of course, maybe they all collaborate and just sit in a big room together, smoking dope and dreaming up these tunes which get stuck in our minds and which we can’t forget – the sign of a great tune or advert.

I then came across a company called Xenomania – another music factory but this time churning out hit songs for the likes of Cher, Kylie Minogue, The Pet Shop Boys and the Sugarbabes to mention just a few. Based in Kent, Xenomania employ songwriters and musicians to produce the music we all know and love, and all along we probably thought that Kylie had maybe written her songs herself. Girls Aloud are probably their biggest success at the moment having written many of their hits however it seems that many artists are not quite happy enough with Xenomania's efforts and take the finished tune or song and then change it out of all recognition. This is what Brian Higgins of the company says about these ‘failed collaborations’: “the big artists were fine until they got into the mix room and then they basically pulled the record to pieces. So I took my name and writing credits off the record. Because they're assholes they only sold about 20,000 copies and they've never been seen since.”

Note the reference to ‘writing credits’. These guys must make an absolute fortune given that the songwriter generally gets up to 50% of the royalties every time one of their songs is played, so the next time you hear Girls Aloud’s ‘Sound of the Underground’ or ‘Something Kinda Oooh’ being played on the radio or MTV, somebody down in deepest Kent is raking in another few bob.

And as for getting the tune onto my iPhone - what a pain in the ass. 'Halfway Home is only released on iTunes in Germany and in any case the song is different from the advert music, so I had to find some software to 'capture' the music from the internet, then I had to find some more software to 'edit' it down to 30 seconds (iPhone doesn't like ringtones more than 30 seconds long apparently!) and then I did it - problem is I haven't had a call on my iPhone since I put the ringtone on it! Typical!


No comments: