I LOVE my job!


I LOVE my job!

In my world few things can beat the feeling of writing a great song. It is like a prism of the disagreements, the stories we’ve told each other throughout the years, the music we’re making, all the music we’ve ever listened to in our lives, the argument with our loved one last week, the profound talks with a friend last week, the stress of that really busy last week. It’s a snapshot of life condensed into something like 3 minutes. Short, sweet, and to the point. Not too little, not too much. Just perfect.

But I don’t love putting a price tag on something so intangible as a great song. Especially when nobody in the business thinks the songwriter needs to get paid more than their share of the publishing. And in regards to publishing, sharing really is caring (for everyone but the songwriter).

The artist gives the song life, so they get a cut. The producer designs the sound, so they get a cut. The cool guitar player who came to the studio and played the synth melody with a real guitar in some really cool sunglasses and a sweet leather jacket gets 10% for giving extra “life” to the song, cause it’s “good karma” (and because the guitar player doesn’t get a fee for coming to the studio).

These split discussions (in my experience) almost always end with an equal split usually agreed upon by all of the creators of the song. And the karma is really good, but you can’t eat karma. And even songwriters gotta eat.

I LOVE my job, but I hate that people think I just pull songs out of my ass. That I never sat night after night, day after day, honing my craft, and perfecting a line there, a bridge here, or rewrote a hook because it wasn’t the best it could possibly be. I hate that people think I come unprepared,  and just sorta try something based on my feelings that day. That’s not my job.

My job is to never run out of ideas. And that job takes time.

My job is to come prepared with A, B, C and D plans and ideas for what this particular song should be. My job is to never run out of ideas. And that job takes time. I take notes when I read, watch movies, binge a tv show, or listen to a podcast, because somewhere, in those notes, there might be a song for an artist I haven’t even met yet. And that’s a time consuming job. It’s just too bad nobody wants to pay for the hours and days I put in. Tough luck. I guess.

“Let’s set up a session” is a great ending to a conversation with an artist, an A&R, a label manager or a manager. Sure thing, buddy. Let’s set it up. An amazing new artist would really love to work with me. Wow. Little ol’ me. Amazing. I can’t wait. We find a date that suits everybody. We meet on said date, and just before we start working, the artist says he/she’s been really busy working. He/she’s quite tired, cause he/she’s been “doing the round”.

And what does that mean, you might ask? It just means that the artist isn’t quite ready to release anything yet, there were some great demos, but they don’t quite sound like a single. So the artist gets thrown into any session the label or manager can set up, because… well because maybe magic will happen, maybe the artist will figure what a single sounds like to them (they’re not quite sure yet), and maybe lightning will strike, and maybe… I’m hungry. It’s time for some lunch. Should we order something? Yeah! Nice! I’m sure the label… oh,  they don’t? Ok, I guess I’ll have to pay for lunch myself then.

But that’s cool, cause I get a small fee for a days work, right? I mean, the label… oh, they don’t pay fees to songwriters? So I have to argue with the producer over their fee? That doesn’t seem right. They work long hours too, way more hours than they get paid for. But I thought you had a label? Don’t they expect some sort of cost, when you gather people up, to try to make some magic? Oh… they don’t, they just said “I needed to do the rounds, otherwise they’re not sure there’s really gonna be a release next year”. Oh. Ok. I’ll pay for my lunch then. I guess you gotta spend money, to make money, right? Let’s start making that magic song then, right? Right.

Over time some of the arguments tend to disappear. The ones who don’t, finds a place inside you, where you can live with them. Bullshit tends to show its true colors over the course of time, and, as most of you already know, bullshit doesn’t last, but the great songs do. To me, that’s the most important thing to remember when you’re arguing, negotiating, being blackballed, and trying to cope with the hurt, when people tell you, you’re not really worth the price you’re reasonably asking for. At the end of the day, the music remains.

Gisli Gislason
Songwriter, lyricist, writer

Kirjoittaja on Musiikintekijöiden tanskalaisen sisarusjärjestön DPA:n hallituksen jäsen ja palkittu musiikintekijä.



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Musiikintekijä-lehti: 2/2023

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