Industry Jargon: Who, what, and why? Part one – The making and performing of music

The music industry can at times be quite a confusing thing to wrap one’s head around, especially when you get into those in depth conversations about industry giants and artists, or who people are signed with and why certain things are happening in the industry.

In order to help you all out, we at Cosher Recording Studios in Cape town have decided to get into some of that industry jargon to help make things just a little bit less confusing and maybe to clear up some of the misconceptions that you may have when thinking about anything related to music.

The first thing you need to know is that the music industry works on a business model. There are processes, roles, strategies, contracts, negotiations which leads into the creation of a product (the song/album/EP) which is then subsequently marketed to the public. Knowing these industry aspects is vital if you want to make a career out of your music

What is an artist and Songwriter?

This may actually be a little bit more in depth than you think. Yes, when you think artist you think Lady Gaga or Anne-Marie as single artists, or perhaps Goldfish or Billy Talent when you think about bands, but there’s more to it than that. If you label Gaga as an artist you’re on the money, because she absolutely is. However, these people including  Britney Spears, Justin Bieber and others are more specifically recording artists. They are the final face and voice of the song. Many times these recording artists don’t even write their own songs (some are terrible at it) but they receive the backtrack and lyrics from other artists and songwriters to sing on.

Songwriters are exactly that. They write the lyrics to the songs. Many songwriters don’t feature or even sing on the final song. They make a living off writing lyrics (Royalties) for other recording artists. However most songwriters can sing and are also recording artists which means that they write lyrics for their own final songs which are then released to the public. Many up & coming artists start out this way, they write their own lyrics to their own songs but as they progress in their career, some focus more on the songwriting side of things while others focus on the singing aspect of the song.

Bands are also made up of artists, everything you need to perform or to record is usually done by the members, but what about the guys who help in making the music for the single artists? Enter 2 categories of artists you probably never thought about, the session musician, and the session performer.

Session Musicians

These bad boys (and girls) are the people you call into the studio when you want to get some of that live feel in your track. When you’ve laid a vocal line and you want that smooth sultry guitar line behind you, or that hot sax solo which electronic instruments just won’t cut. Granted you’ll pay for them, and sometimes quite a bit, but they have to be at the top of their game because their names go onto your song as performers too.

Session Performers

Now come the really top notch performers, who are both very good at their instruments and also know how to put on a good show, because that’s part of the gig. Watch Beyonce live and you’ll see the drummer playing with just a touch more flair. The same counts for guitarists and keyboard players. No matter what they do, you’ll see a stage presence and a certain relationship between the headline act (The main recording artist) and their supporting band, mostly because certain artists will pick a band who they will work with often because they can build a working relationship which shows on stage. It also means that the people that are on stage all have a good feel for the music.

The producer

These people are the last stop before your track goes live. Producers are the people who are there to take the music you’ve made, lyrics you have, or tune you’ve been thinking about, and turn it into something you can send to radio or perform with. For Hip-Hop and R&B, electronic music and Pop, you’ll often not need a live musician because a producer also needs to be part musician, part production professional. They take the vocal, instrument and electronic elements that you’ve put into a song and ensure that the sounds you have put into your track are audible. A good producer will be able to take the ideas and thoughts you have and turn them into a track which will be ready for radio play or to perform with.

But, there is some confusion with the role of a ‘Producer’. You get the traditional music producer and you get the current, modern day Producer.

The traditional producer back in the day used to act in a very similar way to movie producers. They make the whole thing happen from start to finish. They are an integral part of the whole process from selecting the songwriters,  matching the recording artists, choosing the studio, liaising with the record labels and giving the final go ahead of the song. These producers, most of the time, never actually physically create or record anything. They mostly oversee everything

The current, modern day producers do some of what the traditional producers do but focus more on the actual creation of the song. The term producers has been misused so much that it’s now the industry standard norm to call a person who electronically creates and arranges instruments, ‘producers’, such as hip hop producers.

Here at Cosher Recording Studios, our Producers play the role of a traditional and modern day Producer, helping artists get the absolute best out of their music

Composers and arrangers

These guys usually don’t get that much press unless they’re working for the big Hollywood 6, mostly because what they do forms a part of the music that people don’t really think about. From basic to advanced chord structures, bass lines and drum loops, hooks and melodies, there’s actually a lot that composers do. Composer producers, such as Ross Rowley from Cosher Studios, are quite rare, as production and composing are quite different fields, but those that do are able to make very good and sometimes complex music. Arrangers will take music that someone has already done and either add that to another track or mix it with others. Often this happens when a live orchestra is going to play a medley of different pieces.

These are the main characters who form part of the music making process. For the next  blog we’ll get into labels, production studios, and the other parts of the music industry which may not be part of the music making process, but are just as important in terms of what it means to make music in the modern, digital and international space.

If you have more questions about how things work, feel free to email us on jake@cosherstudios.co.za or whatsapp/text the studio manager on 061 715 4367