Songwriting -Whose songs are you really buying?
By: Jason Knorr
Summer is finally here. The sun is shining longer, and the nights are getting hotter. My acoustic duo “After Hours” is embarking on our summer deck tour. I love this time of year, playing outside by the light of tiki torches with ice cold glasses of beer sweating in your hand.
During this season we definitely gear our set lists towards a more island party feel. We have been playing lots of Jimmy Buffet, Zac Brown Band, Toby Keith, & even some UB40. Through all the renditions of 5 O’clock Somewhere and Chicken Fried, I have really been gravitating a lot towards Kenny Chesney. I am a lover of all music, be it Country, Rock, or Blues.
Like I do with everything, the more I grew to like Kenny Chesney, the more I wanted to learn about him and his show. I was always a fan of Kenny, but lately his music just seemed to click with me and I was relating to some of his songs with how I feel. I was admiring his song writing, and how he painted scenarios so well in my head. As a songwriter, I am always striving to write better songs with more depth and better chord progressions. As I started picking apart his songs and lyrics, and searched for any media I could find on the internet of him or his show, I discovered some unsettling truth’s about the music business that I kind of knew, but never really paid much attention to. As it turns out, all of Kenny Chesney’s huge hits that I love so much, and that earn him more then $70 million dollars a year, are all written by someone else. WHAT???? As I dug around, this is what I found.
* On his first album, In My Wildest Dreams, released in 1994, Kenny co-wrote 6 of the 10 songs on the album. The Album sold a modest 10,000 copies.
* His second Album “All I Need to Know” released in 1995, Chesney co-wrote 4 of the 10 songs on the album.
* Kenny’s Third Album “Me and You” was released in 1996. On this album Chesney had no writing credits on the album at all. That’s right, ZERO out of 11.
* His fourth release “I Will Stand” was put out in 1997. Chesney co-wrote 3 of the 11 songs on this album. And his first song that reached #1 on the charts was off this album, he did not write it.
* 1999 was the year of his fifth release “Everywhere We Go”. Kenny co-wrote 2 of the 11 songs on this album. This album went multi platinum and had four singles.
* In 2000 Chesney released his “Greatest Hits” album. On this album, two new songs were added, neither of which Kenny wrote. Out of the 17 songs on the Greatest Hits album, Kenny Chesney has 4 writing credits.
* 2002 marked the year of his seventh album “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem”. This album sold four million copies and produced five singles. Chesney co-wrote 2 of the 12 songs on this release, neither were singles.
* The Year 2004 marked the release of “When The Sun Goes Down”. Chesney co-wrote 3 songs on this album, and solely wrote 2 songs out of the 11 on the album.
* In 2005 “The Road and The Radio” was released. On this album, Kenny co wrote one song, and solely wrote one song out of the 15 songs on the album.
* 2007 marked the release of “Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates”. Chesney did not receive any writing credits on this release of 11 Songs.
* In 2008 Kenny released “Lucky Old Sun”. Chesney co-wrote 3 songs, and solely wrote 1 song on this 11 song release.
* In 2009, Chesney released his second Greatest Hits CD. It included one new song that Kenny Co-Wrote.
So out of the 147 songs Kenny Chesney released that made him a multi-millionaire, he has written or co-written 33 of them. That is only 22% of them. Now I am not naïve and I knew there were songwriters that wrote songs for artists and co-wrote with artists. But I never realized it was to this extent. How did one of the number one artists in the world only write 22% of his material? When people hear his songs, they think it is coming from him and that helps build their opinion of that artist and they become fans (I did). But really, they are listening to songs crafted by someone they probably never heard of, or probably never will.
I don’t know about you, but this really disappoints me, I feel like I have just been listening to a glorified version of karaoke. I am afraid to research other artists that I admire, in fear that I will also lose respect and admiration for them as well.
As a songwriter, I would most definitely sell my songs to a famous recording artist since the dream of rock stardom has almost totally left my dreams. But I still can’t help but feel like the music industry has pulled a sham on me. I know this has been going on long before me, and will go on long after me. I just wanted to vent about it. I would love to hear other people’s thoughts.