Collective Creativity: A ‘Service’ Model of Contemporary Commercial Pop Music
- Paul Thompson, Leeds Beckett University, UK
- Phil Harding, Leeds Beckett University, UK
Keywords: Creativity, Pop Production, Songwriting
ABSTRACT: A commercial pop music production is rarely the result of a single individual and pop music producers and songwriters are often part of a larger creative collective (Hennion, 1990) in creating a musical product. A team leader typically manages this group activity. That team leader requires an appropriate level of cultural, symbolic and economic capital (Bourdieu, 1984) so they can effectively evaluate the contributions of the rest of the team and guide the project towards commercial success (Thompson & Harding, 2017). This study explores the role of the team leader within the creative production workflow of pop songwriting and production since the 1990s and investigates the ways in which pop songwriting and production teams work within a creative system of pop-music making. Building upon previous studies in this area (Harding and Thompson 2017) the ‘Service Model’ flow system is illustrated with distinct linear stages that include the processes of pop songwriting, pop vocal recording, post vocal production and then mixing. However, within each of these production stages the ‘highly nonlinear dynamics’ (Capra and Luisi, 2014) of the creative system (Csikszentmihalyi; 1988, 1999) can be viewed in action as the team work together to make the pop record. Drawing upon a series of interviews and data gathered during a Practice Based Enquiry (PBE) conducted at Westerdals University in Oslo, this paper presents the pop music ‘Service Model’. Importantly, the model underlines the value of the collective (rather than individual) in the commercial pop songwriting and production process.
This is Phil and Paul’s third presentation about this project (related to Phil’s PhD) – and represents bringing the research up to date by talking about contemporary pop production. For background, you can read about last year’s paper and/or pick up Phil’s book PWL from the Factory Floor.
Panel – Amy Blier-Carruthers, Royal Academy of Music; Phil Harding, PJ Music Ltd; Pytten Hundvin, Norwegian Record Producer and Sound Engineer; Serge Lacasse, Université Laval; Susan Rogers, Berklee College of Music; Simon Zagorski-Thomas, University of West London. Moderator: Alan Williams, University of Massachusetts Lowell.
We begin this panel with a discussion of ‘pet hates’ in recording. The panel rises to the task impressively. Some hates include the loudness wars and issues of track compression (Pytten); horrible tracking rooms in the interests of authenticity; being precious about your ideas and resisting stretching them (Susan); and the boxy frequencies between 400Hz and 900Hz (Phil – “can anyone in this room tell me a good reason for boosting these frequencies, and tell me what instrument to do it on?”).
‘Stay Another Day’: A music composition and production formula to create a successful Boy Band
Phil Harding, producer and PhD candidate
ABSTRACT: Is there a music composition and production formula for a Boy Band? This question is rooted in the trans-cultural context of the 1990s, and it is important for musicologists, entrepreneurs, composers and producers to research this. My study is based on the phenomena of Boy Band success of the 1990s and I am looking at an empirically and theoretically grounded formula proposal that started then and could be contextualized today with ethnographic reflection. In this paper, I will use my own knowledge and experience in the Boy Band genre; I had success as a producer and composer in the 1990s with ‘East 17’ and ‘Boyzone’. I will then contrast this with the views of the managers of those bands – Tom Watkins and Louis Walsh. This will raise some questions around the compositional techniques and the music production technology used today both in professional studios and home recording facilities. What interactive media do composers and musicians in both regional and international contexts use for the collaboration process? Do composition and even recording sessions need to take place in the same room any longer? Pop act ‘The KLF’ (Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond) wrote ‘The Manual (How To Have a Number One The Easy Way)’ 1. This presented the idea of a formula to have a guaranteed No.1 hit single in the UK charts in the 1980s/90s. This will be explored alongside an analysis of data towards my proposed formula for a successful manufactured Boy Band.