Saturday, January 19, 2008

5 Lies You'll Hear In Nashville

By Craig Bickhardt

"It's the illegal downloading"
People are hip to how much it really costs to record and manufacture a great CD (under $20,000). Yet the major record labels continue to dump ridiculous amounts of money into over-hyped acts and then over-charge consumers for their product. Why spend $17 on a CD that sounds like a collection of Clear Channel jingles ? Ask anyone in the Nashville music business if they listen to country music after work and you'll find out they hate country music. If you want a great CD look to the indie labels, which incidentally, are booming and profiting because they don't operate on bloated budgets designed to keep the suits well-fed while the artists do all the work. The Indies are mostly in it for the art. Read the blogs and the comments and you'll find that most consumers are still buying the music they love and they have no problem paying for mp3s. But they do have a problem with paying twice what they ought to pay for crappy CDs, and with the bullying practices of the RIAA.

"We're looking for something really different."
Has anyone noticed how quickly country music assimilates the latest sound into it's sea of sameness? Shania and Mutt put a banjo in a track and now you can't make a record without a banjo in it. I'm not knocking banjos, I'm criticizing producers for their lack of innovation. Most great songs in Nashville never get recorded precisely because they ARE different. Most of the best songwriters that I know have no publisher at the moment. They all write very fresh, wonderful songs. This lie pushes all my buttons.

"It isn't a conflict of interests."
Of course not. Sony publishing and Sony Records don't play favorites with each other. If a producer runs a record label, produces several acts, and owns a publishing company, he can be still be objective about songs. That's why artists like Faith Hill are shocked to discover that great songwriters also live in Massachusetts, because Faith is hearing the best songs her producer wants her to hear, right? Good work, boys.

"You have to live in town."
Intrinsically there's NO reason why anyone has to live in Nashville. Many writers are collaborating over the Internet these days, and lots a great writers such as Hugh Prestwood and Jimmy Webb NEVER lived there. Living in Nashville is fine if you like it there, and I did for a while. But now I get regular emails and comments from writers who say that Nashville is ruining their writing. They can't be spontaneous, it's all done by committee, they fear being criticized for writing anything too artistic, and they must collaborate with artists, many of whom are not songwriters, never will be songwriters, and only show up for the money.

"Don't worry, I can hear the song."

No you can't. If the demo doesn't sound exactly like what's on the radio, forget it. If I brought you guitar-vocal demos of the next Bob Dylan, you'd pass.

Songwriter Craig Bickhardt, songs have been recorded by Gary Chapman and Alison Krauss, The Judds and Martina McBride among others.

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