Knowledge Bank

news category created 13 January 2014 written by shona wright

When was the last time you looked at the credits on an album?

Producer, Tommy D…

Who played bass on track 7 of the new Beyonce album ?
Where was the Snow Patrol album recorded?
Who designed the sleeve to Jay Z’s Blueprint 3?

If you’re like me and the 300 MILLION other owners of MP3 players, it’s probably a while since you checked the credits of any album. If you own one of the 9 billion songs that have been downloaded from the Apple iTunes store, there is no way of knowing the answer to any of the questions listed above.

In fact, there is no information relating to the Recording, Musicians, Equipment, Publishing or Thank You’s on any downloadable MP3.

When I first started buying records (vinyl in those days!), one of my favourite pastimes, while listening excitedly to my latest acquisition, was to review the packaging, marvel at the artwork and scour the credits on the inner sleeve.

Ahhh the credits…. Who wrote what? recorded where? and played that Gibson double neck?

The credits drew me in, befriended me, gave me a more personal slant on the music. If I saw a familiar name in the Thank You’s, it felt like I’d been given a secret pass (backstage?) into the bands world. It also gave me blagging rights over my mates as too who knew what, a forerunner to the pop pub quiz perhaps?

From credits, I learnt about the genius of engineers like Bruce Swedien and Tom Dowd, Producers like Nile Rogers, Hank Shocklee and George Martin as well as countless back room musicians and songwriters. These people sparked my imagination to set forth on a path to inspire others, the way they inspired me.

If someone created something wonderful, be it the drum sound or the front cover, then I wanted to know everything about that record and those that had been involved and helped these amazing slabs of art come to life.

The record companies, producers and artists took great pains in correlating this information and making sure it was documented accurately and for all to see on the backs of records and CD’s and for good reason. Of course it’s great to see your name in lights but, more importantly, they knew how imperative it is to stand proud next to the work you’ve done.

It is safe to say that credits help to inspire the making and performing of all future music

Although these same credits are there for all to see on any modern CD release, they are restricted solely to CD’s. Even when you take your CD and burn it in the computer, the credits will not be transferred.

When you download a track from iTunes, it includes ‘meta data’, which provides only the Artist, Track name, Album name, year of recording and genre. There are no spaces for engineer, producer, studio, etc. And let us not forget sleeve design, photo credits, mastering, A+R, or even the label’s name…the list is endless.

Meta data is just simple text.

CD sales are on a steep decline and it is quite possible we will see the demise of the CD within the next 3 years.

This will leave the world of credits in a dire place.

There are websites, e.g. http://www.discogs.com, where you can find all kinds of info, but its all too disorganized and more importantly its not connected to the listening experience.

It seems strange that, in this world of mass communication and assimilation of info, we are now in a position where we know less about the music we’re listening to then ever before. With iPhones and their ilk, there is a huge opportunity to incorporate a myriad of fascinating information, e.g. interviews with the artist or producer, studio notes or observations from the writer. Imagine spicing up a boring bus commute with an in depth interview with Quincy Jones or Rod Temperton while listening to Thriller.

There are other important issues with the lack of information on recordings. For many years, album credits have been a useful reference for, amongst others, PRS, BMI, PPL, etc. to facilitate the payment of lost royalties. As recording royalties subside and performance royalties increase, a guarantee of who played what on an album becomes a very important source of income for musicians, as well as the Inland Revenue!

Myself and my fellow members of the MPG feel this issue should at least be debated out in the open with a view to garnering the opinions of all those involved; artists, labels, audience and sales alike.

MPG member and winner of this years MPG and Brits Producer of the year, Paul Epworth agrees:

“While a lot of this is information is widely available via the wonder of the web, too much of it is missing and far from accurate. There needs to be a resource that gives the next generation of musicians, producers and artists somewhere to go to find out who to follow!!”

Credit information needs to be incorporated into the listening experience and made accessible for those that wish to know it, need it, and most importantly be inspired by it. We should be proud of the work we do. If we’re not, who will be?

Our fore fathers understood that, why can’t we?
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Comments (21 )

Joe Corr says:
12 March, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Why not attach an audio file to each recording, like a hidden track. A human can give a 5 minute dialogue talking through the making of the record. Something between a DJ on a small radio station and a fully blown documentary. Not an ideal format by any means but a start in terms of awareness. Start by building out the content at a minimal cost, cross referencing would be technically easy and since the data will be available it will more likely be used by those who want/need it. I’m not technical nor do I have any credits but am an avid listener who remembers the joy of reading liner notes while listening to my new vinyl purchase. Right now it’s like watching 10 red shirts against 10 blue shirts where the players have no names or numbers and are faceless. Ultimately though someone will want to ‘see the money’ whether through direct revenue or value add.
Stuart “Stuee” Ross says:
25 August, 2012 at 5:33 pm

I agree with Gary Clark (above), it would be great if lyrics could also be included. It seems that one website posts (inaccurate) lyrics, and the others all copy and paste them into their sites, so there is nowhere to find good information.
Having said that, the artists don’t help. I’m often amazed/frustrated by how few artists post lyrics on their own sites. It’s like that old thing: Is it Bowie or Bowie? Is it Basinger, Basinger or Basinger? Will somebody please just ask them how they say it?! Grrr…

So yes indeedy, I back this whole thing – partly as I’d like to be credited for work I’ve done, and partly so I can find good information on music I purchase.

Good luck guys, this could transform the MP3 into a ‘package’ like what we used to get with CDs.
Phil Dare says:
25 July, 2012 at 10:31 pm

My thoughts on The Future of the Record Producer Credit:
http://producerphildare.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/the-future-of-the-record-producer-credit/
Gary Clark says:
20 September, 2011 at 11:23 pm

I’ve been in the industry for years first as an artist then as a writer and producer for other artists. I am constantly amazed by how much misinformation is out there on the web. Lyrics are also a major problem. I’ve had artists cover songs and sing the wrong lyric taken from the internet. It would be great to have an official and definitive place to get the credits and the correct info. What better place than on the digital download itself?
Sandy Dworniak says:
28 February, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Jim Abbiss did work on Adele’s “21″ producing two of the tracks, along with Rick Rubin (4 tracks), Paul Epworth (two tracks), Frazer T Smith (one Track), Ryan Tedder (one track) and Dan Wilson (one track). Credit where credit is due!
Bramwell Bronte says:
15 February, 2011 at 3:11 pm

As a young engineer and aspiring producer I find the struggle to be fairly credited has become more and more difficult. I’ve worked in studios (with artists like The Unthanks, New York Dolls, Jamie T) now for 7 years. The lack of credit information available digitally is only making the situation more frustrating for younger members of the industry. I can appreciate that not being credited or mis-credited happens to everyone and commonly through simple mistakes/oversights and not through any malace; however the use of an online database that can be updated to credit everyone who contributed to the creation of a record, even after it has been printed, is surely only going to benefit the industry as a whole. It will highlight the amount of work, skill and finance required to create the albums that everyone wants but now seem to commonly undervalue. It’s a bizarre situation when you can’t prove that you worked on a record for two months.
TommyD says:
23 January, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I dont think he worked on it. Still the media always go with the story and Rick Rubin is a story and the rest aren’t
Mick Glossop says:
23 January, 2011 at 10:04 am

Once again, talented UK record producer, Jim Abiss, is ignored in the name-check in a review of Adele’s new album, “21″

http://m.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jan/23/adele-adkins-21-review?cat=music&type=article
Richard Lightman says:
1 June, 2010 at 8:42 am

As a young musician, I would seek out records by favourite producers or recordings that had musicians of note that had played on them. This was an additional form of cross marketing which in the music industry’s infinite wisdom, has let fall by the wayside? I would have thought any form of promotion or marketing in these days and times would be more than welcome, especially one that can be delivered entirely digitally and at almost no cost except for time.
greg @ coiled music says:
31 May, 2010 at 11:01 pm

One of the main reasons I still buy CDs and then rip them myself, is so that I can read all the credits and liner notes… So I think this is a great idea!!
john “segs”Jennings says:
31 May, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Strangely,it not an ego thing.Actually as I grew up through my life in music.I used to find it inspiring to bother to find out who played what,this was also a part of “Record sleeves as a piece of artwork”,a concept that started to get lost with the advent of c.d’s and now is almost disappearing.I totally embrace the new technology but how can the sales side of this industry survive when greed dictates the minimal royalties paid to artists for downloads and a total disinterest in credits by the powers that be. When i tunes first started there was a brief period where one could right click and some credits (on certain releases) were revealed…this was short lived
Wilfried Rimensberger says:
31 May, 2010 at 2:21 pm

There are so many credits missing or manipulated from pre-CD and CD times that it is about time to establish a database that can instantly correct the wrongs from the past.
OD Hunte says:
31 May, 2010 at 12:50 pm

This is an idea that I have had for a several years now but finding a way to create a central unified system that is enforceable is the problem. Also as such a system may not possibly be directly monetized, it would take a not-for-profit-organization-with considerable lobbying power to get involved;- preferably with Steve Jobs on the board of directors.

iTunes as the biggest digital music retailer has a system of including a PDF booklet with select albums but it needs to go further than this as we live in an à la carte music society now where more music consumers are purchasing single tracks. It could easily be, and I feel should be, compulsorily to include along with such meta data as the ISRC code, the songwriting and production credits at least, and for recordings where it is possible, other production credits such as engineering, mixing, mastering and performer credits. But this introduces another problem, who would police this additional data input? Or perhaps this information could be added retrospectively to purchased mp3s like the Gracenote database system which can populate CD track titles when a CD is inserted onto a computer.

The benefits that such a system would create are manifold however so are the obstacles to realization.
Damian Taylor says:
28 May, 2010 at 6:18 pm

I would be MORE than over the moon to see credits properly incorporated into digital media. Websites like discog are at best a long long way from being accurate or comprehensive, but more than anything you shouldn’t have to go to a third party to find out information about the recording you are listening to. I feel like I’ve been missing out on understanding who is doing the work that has excited me over recent years, credits are vital for establishing a framework for who is active and rocking it in any era. I definitely go buy other work by producers / engineers / musicians / etc whose work I admire. Combining this information with the ease and value of buying music digitally would be of great value to the industry on all levels.
Mick Newton says:
27 May, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Great idea, but have have you seen Decibel? A new venture (nothing to do with me!) trying to answer that very question I believe.
Dylan Satow says:
27 May, 2010 at 8:07 am

I Think this is an important and positive thing to do. As the site says, credit where credits due. As a produce, DJ and new-music fan I often look for music based upon producers, engineers etc I know make music I want to listen to. As mentioned by Tommy, film and other artistic mediums all list their contributors (as physical records and CD’s often do) so surely this should be the same now that we have moved into the digital age.
Mark Rose says:
25 May, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Credit ommisions are a crime of apathy from industry and online digital providers, many great musicians and studio recording teams are not receiving the performance and skills credits they rightly deserve, in some instances digital agreggators are stripping the info/meta-data sent before re-publishing and uploading online. Save work and paper ! and provide all credits to be embedded inside all future file formats. Learn and inform more from the formats and info the industry provide, with each new recording.
TommyD says:
24 May, 2010 at 6:36 pm

All Music and Discogs are great sites but far from accurate and not officially endorsed by the industry
Anthony says:
24 May, 2010 at 2:32 pm

I agree that i would like to see this data in the meta tags in an mp3 file.

cant you link up with musicbrainz (http://musicbrainz.org/) and something like http://albumcredits.com/http://www.discogs.com/ or http://www.allmusic.com/ to make this information easily available
Marek says:
24 May, 2010 at 1:49 pm

This seems sensible and right, and a logical development for iTunes etc to follow. Although I download tracks and singles, one of the reasons I still prefer to buy albums on CD is because of the credit information. But I realise I’m increasingly in a minority and with CD sales continuing to decline there will be even less exposure for those involved in making the music, which can’t be good.
Rahoul Baruah says:
23 May, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I remember sitting on the bus back from town, scouring the sleeve for as much information as possible about the record.

It all added to the anticipation of getting the thing home and listening to it and is definitely something that is missing from today’s buying experience.

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