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Is establishing melodies a big part of writing music?

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  • Is establishing melodies a big part of writing music?

    Hey everyone. I own a lot of U2 and Green Day CD's. And I've read the liner notes for every one of those CD's.

    In almost all the liner notes, the songwriting credits are denoted as "Lyrics by Bono, Music by U2" or "Lyrics by Billie Joe, Music by Green Day".

    When it says "Music by U2"- Does it mean that the band created all the melodies, riffs, hooks, harmonies, and chord progressions while composing the music itself?

    In other words- Is developing melodies a large part of writing music?

    Thanks guys!

  • #2
    Originally posted by Jericho-79 View Post
    Is developing melodies a large part of writing music?

    Thanks guys!
    I'm not sure I get the question. A song's melody and its music are the same thing. So when a copyright says "Music by XXX" it means that XXX wrote the melody.

    The only differentiation I can think of is if someone writes the melody line and another person adds chords to it. In several songs that I've written, I worked with a pianist whose chords/harmonic structure improved the sound of the tune to the extent that I gave her co-credit for the music.

    Does this answer your question?
    “I think you make yourself an antenna for songs, and songs want to be around you. And then they bring other songs along, and then they’re all sittin’ around, and they’re drinking your beer, and they’re sleeping on the floor.” —Tom Waits

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    • #3
      Very odd question. Someone who is familiar with the terms "riffs, hook, harmonies, and chord progressions" who asks if "developing melodies is a large part of writing music?"

      Tell us this is a sincere question, please. If it is, then Lee is right - some clarification needed.

      nat whilk ii

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Jericho-79 View Post
        Hey everyone. I own a lot of U2 and Green Day CD's. And I've read the liner notes for every one of those CD's.

        In almost all the liner notes, the songwriting credits are denoted as "Lyrics by Bono, Music by U2" or "Lyrics by Billie Joe, Music by Green Day".

        When it says "Music by U2"- Does it mean that the band created all the melodies, riffs, hooks, harmonies, and chord progressions while composing the music itself?

        In other words- Is developing melodies a large part of writing music?

        Thanks guys!
        It's a bit of a complicated question...

        According to copyright law as it is usually interpreted in the US and many of its major trading partner nations (and signatories of the international copyright convention), the primary aspects of a given musical work that are 'automatically' considered protectable under copyright are melody and lyric.

        That means that chord progressions, individual musical parts or even the general arrangements they comprise may not be protectable by copyright. The exceptions tend to be for musical features that are an integral part of the song, like the bass line for the old 60s tune, "Shotgun," or the drum tattoo that is the undeniable hook from "Big Noise from Winnetka." But such exceptions need to convince a judge or sometimes jury -- and that can be a real crapshoot, the roll of the dice could go either way with quirky judges and juries who are typically not, you know, musicians or songwriters.


        The reason that some bands might credit songwriting the way you suggest is that it includes the band in the mechanical revenue stream ('mechanicals' are per-unit royalties written into black-letter law in the US and some other jurisdictions -- typically at the behest of publishers -- who made sure that the writers only get HALF the mechanical royalties and the publishers get the other half, by law -- a law all but written by lobbyists for the music industry).

        However, new forms of distribution have challenged some of these long-established legal entitlements and in the streaming era, the actual musicians performing the works are finally getting a little bit a fairer shake, where they were often cut off from ongoing revenue by extortive, exploitive recording contracts.

        Unfortunately, the labels have found new ways to disadvantage their artists and keep the revenue for themselves... which is one reason why so many people have moved to alternative distribution systems outside the advertising-hype-driven radio-pop market (which is so utterly dependent on paid promotion and payola in order to gin up interest in the mass-produced product of the moment).

        But it's worth noting that many of the people complaining the loudest about being 'cheated' by, for instance, Spotify (who were extremely aggressive in recruiting labels by cutting deals with majors and big artists that seriously disadvantaged small labels and independent artists), are those who were already signed to majors and who ended up having no control over their music's distribution or the remuneration for it.

        Worth noting that virtually every other stream service pays at least around twice what Spotify does per average stream, and some, like Google All Access, pay much more -- about 8 times more than Spotify, in fact. (These are revenue-sharing arrangements, however, and may reflect 'bonuses' awarded to signees. That said, at least some other stream services give the same rate to all their artists.)
        Last edited by blue2blue; 05-24-2014, 01:17 PM.


        music and social stuff

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        • #5
          Interesting. So the song credits could be attorney-vetted, in the sense that the two copyright-able aspects, lyrics and melody, are explicitly cited in the credits, divvying things up for legal/royalty purposes.

          Maybe the OP was wondering if the lyrics and melody could be considered one unit, with all the other stuff considered "music". Or if "lyrics" just mean the words, period.

          Of course the give and take in a band with multiple members providing creative ideas and content has led to many an argument later on when the money is real and the legal ink has long since dried. I think of Levon Helm's unabated anger at Robbie Robertson for one sad example.

          nat whilk ii

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          • #6
            Publisher gets half (because it was publisher's lobbyists who shaped the laws way back when, of course) and then the songwriters divide the remaining pool. I'm actually not sure if there is any law on who gets what, like lyricist gets half and composer gets half. But I believe that's pretty customary, with divvying dividing along those lines for co-writers. But, you know, you can cut any arrangement to divvy up the legally mandated royalties you want, as long as all parties contractually agree to it.

            For instance, some writers would be so desperate for a record/publishing deal that they'd often cut deals that gave publishers or even producers a portion of the songwriter's songwriting royalties -- while hot writers could often cut deals where they would hold out for part of the publishing (or even holding all the publishing -- but there was, under old business models, so very much money from songwriting mechanicals that that was the fat pot that was fought and haggled over. With shifting royalty structures in the new business, things have shifted, but some old black-letter law structures remain (because certain vested business entities would howl if there was reform -- like usual when the legislature gets involved with picking economic winners and losers).
            Last edited by blue2blue; 05-25-2014, 11:28 AM.


            music and social stuff

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            • #7
              I'm just curious, guys.

              In a band- Does the lyricist usually come up with a melody? Or is it a collaborative effort among all band members while composing the music itself?

              Does it really depend on the band?

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              • #8
                There are a full range of possibilities from the band contributing equally to music and or words (or at least taking writing credit equally, as in the case of the Doors), to just one person writing everything. And anything in between.
                Last edited by blue2blue; 05-26-2014, 08:55 AM.


                music and social stuff

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                • #9
                  These are weird questions.

                  Lyricists write lyrics. Do some people write music (melodies) and lyrics? Yes.

                  In some bands the musicians expand on an original musical idea that one member (which might the singer or the lead guitarist) comes up with. In most cases those changes are thought of as "just" arrangements, so in most cases the band members don't get a percentage of the writing royalties. For instance, in "And I Love Her" by the Beatles, George Harrison reportedly came up with the guitar figure that seems to be an integral part of a song that Paul wrote. But George isn't listed as co-writer, John is.
                  “I think you make yourself an antenna for songs, and songs want to be around you. And then they bring other songs along, and then they’re all sittin’ around, and they’re drinking your beer, and they’re sleeping on the floor.” —Tom Waits

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Jericho-79 View Post
                    I'm just curious, guys.

                    In a band- Does the lyricist usually come up with a melody? Or is it a collaborative effort among all band members while composing the music itself?

                    Does it really depend on the band?
                    Yes, it depends on the band. And yes, melody is an important part of writing music...a chord progression is not a song. But bands don't get crazy dividing up credit, or else they would rip apart. What you see very often is the band collectively will write the music (from someones basic idea) and then the singer/lyricist will write the melody on top of that. In band situations, while the singer could theoretically demand more for having written the melody a larger chunk of the music, they usually don't. In U2's case, the band splits everything (performance royalties, songwriting, publishing, performance royalties) equally 5 ways: the four band members plus their long time manager. And lo and behold they've stayed together. Does Bono arguably deserve more money for having written a greater share of the songs (melody, lyrics)? Sure.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Jericho-79 View Post
                      Is developing melodies a large part of writing music?
                      In my limited world it very definitely is.

                      All of my songs start with a melody that is making me smile. Lyrics always come later.
                      Leonard Scaper

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Jericho-79 View Post
                        Is developing melodies a large part of writing music?

                        In my limited world melody is almost always the seed. I need a melody that is making me smile.....lyrics come later.
                        Leonard Scaper

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                        • #13
                          Hey guys. OP here.

                          What about a song's chord progressions, rhythm, harmonies, riffs, and hooks?

                          Are those aspects derived from a melody? Or is it the other way around?

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                          • #14
                            [QUOTE=nat whilk II;n31164012

                            Maybe the OP was wondering if the lyrics and melody could be considered one unit, with all the other stuff considered "music". Or if "lyrics" just mean the words, period.

                            [/QUOTE]

                            Bingo!

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jericho-79 View Post
                              Hey guys. OP here.

                              What about a song's chord progressions, rhythm, harmonies, riffs, and hooks?

                              Are those aspects derived from a melody? Or is it the other way around?
                              I still don't understand the question.
                              Don't listen to Justin.
                              LCK - 2/21/2012

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