By Deborah Fairchild
Maybe you commute to work listening to The Weeknd’s “Save Your Tears,” or you make chores around the house more palatable with a little assistance from the sounds of Drake or Billie Eilish.
If you follow popular music at all, you almost certainly are aware of those performers as well as many other big names in the business, such as Post Malone, Lizzo and Ariana Grande.
And when you think of their songs, you likely think of them.
But recorded music is not the work of just one person, no matter how talented and charismatic that person is on stage. Backup musicians, producers, songwriters, engineers and others also play significant if often unheralded roles in coaxing into existence those tunes that, as some have said, become the soundtracks for our lives.
To get an idea of the plethora of people whose efforts go into your cherished songs, take a journey through the credits for country singer Luke Combs’ album “What You See is What You Get.” Roughly 40 people earn a mention, from drummer Jerry Roe to engineer Alex Gilson to mastering assistant Megan Peterson. Luke may be the focus for country music fans who listen to the album’s songs, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that he is not doing it all by himself, as he likely would tell you.
That list of names connected to the album is more than just a formal acknowledgement to those who lend their talents to the final product. In the music industry, credits are part of the resume, so building an accurate record of who contributed to what is crucial for everyone involved. If, for example, you do digital editing, you want to be able to say you worked on Luke Combs’ album – or Drake’s or Taylor Swift’s – and you want to have the credit listed to prove it. That will help pave the way for more job opportunities down the line.
And, of course, there’s the not-so-small matter of the paycheck. Most people are drawn to the music industry because it’s something they enjoy, but they need to pay bills like anyone else. Yet, unless someone is keeping an accurate record of who contributed to the work, that pay might not make its way to the correct and deserving person’s bank account.
So, credits are important on many levels and they are something I take seriously, as you might imagine since my company, VEVA Sound, helps musicians store and organize their projects through our VEVA Collect digital platform.
But I’m also confident that the average music fan doesn’t spend as much time as I do contemplating the many, many people who deserve some credit for popular – or even obscure – songs. In fairness, the tendency to overlook behind-the-scenes people is probably true in a lot of other industries as well.
Books often include an acknowledgements page, or pages, where the author names editors, researchers, literary agents, librarians or anyone else who helped make the book a reality. Many readers, though, just skim the acknowledgments or skip them altogether. Movies end with not just a cast list, but an extensive cataloging of anyone who remotely had a hand in creating the movie, from key grips to gaffers. Unfortunately, moviegoers often mosey toward the exit as the credits begin to roll rather than stick around to check out all the names. That is, they leave unless they suspect the director included a bonus post-credits scene, as the Marvel movies tend to do, and even then they may pay little attention to the names.
Such realities may leave people thinking, “Who cares about credits anyway?”
Plenty of folks, that’s who.
But it was thinking along those lines that got those of us at VEVA Sound to begin wondering if there was something we might be able to do to create more awareness around music credits to make sure they – and the people behind them – don’t get overlooked.
What came out of that was a Credits Are Cool™ campaign that raises money for charity while at the same time emphasizing just how important those people behind the scenes are to the songs that keep music lovers humming, dancing and smiling.
To pull off the Credits Are Cool effort, we collaborated with a number of musical artists to create hoodies, t-shirts and sweatshirts with the name and image of a song on the front. On the back is a list of people who contributed to the song. In a sense, we are trying to create a movement, proclaiming that we should celebrate everyone who was involved in making music – not just the performers whose names are on a marquee.
Artists whose songs appear on the Credits Are Cool clothing include Sam Tinnesz, Wendy Moten, Sonia Leigh, Hailey Steele, Right Said Fred, Ty Herndon, Jamie O’Neal, Shelly Fairchild, Teke Teke, Whiskey Wolves of the West, and Tayla Lynn, granddaughter of Loretta Lynn.
Maybe through this initiative, in some small way, those who listen to music will take a moment to think about the fact that recorded music is a much more collaborative effort than they might ever have imagined. It could even open up career ideas for young people who love music and would like to work in the industry, but didn’t realize that there’s room for people other than the talented vocalist and the guitar hero.
Yes, credits really are cool because they are not just about seeing your name in lights. They are about how you get work in the ever-competitive music industry.
About Deborah Fairchild
Deborah Fairchild, president of VEVA Sound, started her career with the company as an archival engineer in 2004. In the past 16 years she has risen to lead the company in all facets of the business. She has grown VEVA into a global entity servicing major labels in North America and Europe, establishing offices in New York, Los Angeles, and London in addition to the company’s headquarters in Nashville. Fairchild has kept VEVA at the forefront of technology and continues to evolve and adapt VEVA’s services and technology to assist the needs of their extensive client base. She advises many label executives, producers, engineers and artists seeking archival and asset management solutions.