Music – Collaboration or selling out?

I’ve spent the last few months learning to play guitar. My guitar is nothing flash. Nothing plugged in. Just an acoustic number I picked up as an after thought, prior to leaving Australia’s shores. After staring at it in the corner for the last few years, I decided to get things going. I’ve got a local teacher who knows his stuff, which is great because I don’t. He’s particular to say the least. He’s quick to point out the rights and wrongs of how to go about things. He tells me it’s all to do with understanding the structure of a song, knowing how to move up and down the fret board, finding the occasional bar chord without missing a beat. So nothing I’m currently playing, sounds remotely like a song yet, but I’m hopeful.

He travels a lot. Plays sessions for various groups. I mentioned a few bands I liked. As it turned out, quite a few we disagreed about the quality of. Him being a purist, me just liking what I’m hearing. Let me defend myself a little. I grew up with heavy metal. Probably a bad start – I know. Though having moved through glamour rock, to grunge, to hip hop, to a bit of everything, I’m confident I can pick something that sounds fairly genuine and decent. I don’t go in for the boy band shite, or the crap that sounds like it’s been put through a Disney filter and remixed twice. Though he mentioned something that threw me. Did you know, that all too often a song is pitched out for improvement? By that, I mean a basic track with lyrics is sent to three, four, or maybe more groups of musicians who are challenged with improving it? If they can and the artist goes with it, they receive a credit note and royalties. If the artist says no, they get nothing. My teacher can testify to this, because he’s done it. He didn’t elaborate on whether or not he was successful and I didn’t push him for an answer, though for me the damage was done. I’ve mentioned this to a few people. Some think it’s terrific. It’s collaboration at its best. Trying to provide the masses with something, that is as good as it can be. For me, it feels like a departure from the artist themselves. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing bad with a bit of collaboration. Look at Elton John and his long term writing partner Bernie Taupin. They had a collective brand that is Elton John which my parents knew and loved, though everyone knew it existed. I’m not sure many know there’s a pitch fest out there for anything that might have a beat, or be in need of one.

But what’s different for the writer that goes through a publisher? Won’t the publishing house they reside in decide on what’s good and what’s bad? Probably read the work to focus groups, decide what is or isn’t on trend etc then change it? Does that make it better, refined or just different? With any luck I’ll find out, I’m into a second draft, stay tuned.