By Chad Richardson
If songs were food I would be in a lot worse shape than I am today. If songs were food you would see me as an annual contestant on The Biggest Loser. Every season I’d do the head-hanging walk of shame back to the scale, with the disappointment of my trainer’s eyes burning through my soul but with a smile on my face and a belly full of food.
Although I’ve been a songwriter (and SOCAN member) for most of my life, I always saw my true passion as singing. From recording artist to Broadway performer, I lived to sing. But over the past few years, as I went from the performing side of music to the business side, I realized that it was less about the action of singing and more about the words and melodies coming out of my mouth. Songs, lyrics and music are my food. They are, apart from my young son, my raison d’être.
So when the call went out asking for someone to write a blog with the title “It all starts with a song,” I jumped at the chance. It seemed so easy, like it would no doubt write itself. “Give me the weekend,” I said. But minutes turned into hours, hours turned into days, and days turned into weeks. I wasn’t having an easy time. Why? Because the title itself is the whole article. I felt like all I could come up with was, “Yes, yes it does.”
They call smell the memory sense, and songs are like smells. They instantly bring you back to a moment in time that can evoke sadness, joy, anxiety, fear, pain, happiness, jealousy… the list goes on.. There’s a reason why the first dance at a wedding is traditionally the song that the couple fell in love to. The words tell the story of their great love affair, and with one listen the song brings them back to that little café on 3rd Street when a boy saw a girl, and a girl saw a boy (or any other combination you desire). I realized that it isn’t a simple thing, but a very complex and vast topic that could merit 100 blogs for 100 moments in our life that start with a song.
I needed to centre myself and focus. These thoughts, feelings and moments of inspiration were rushing through my mind, complicating what should be a simple idea. Then it struck me, as I began to think of what might hit closest to home for my industry friends and me. That was it. The “all” that starts with a song, in this case, is our careers, our paycheques and our livelihoods. Publishers, recording artists, record labels, managers, music industry lawyers, agents, promoters… None of my comrades and colleagues would have our jobs, or a reason to get up in the morning, without the beautiful, wonderful, complicated, simple…. song. It’s an incredible product that comes from pure thin air. No assembly (line) required.
I’ve visited and worked for companies that felt more like a bank than a place of inspiration. People focused on the money, but not the music. I’m happy to report, for both our members andmeI is, that SOCAN couldn’t be any further away from this approach. SOCAN is a music company that works with money: your money. Without our members, we’re nothing, but without their songs, our members are nothing.
I’ve invented a T-shirt-style slogan by which I try to live my professional life: “Serve the song, serve the songwriter, serve the company.” If you do right by one then the next one instantly falls into place: they all thrive and they’ll all prosper. So at the end of the day the only thing you need to serve is the song.
We should all serve the song. Of course SOCAN is a company with incredibly skilled people who track down, collect and distribute literally hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties every year to our songwriters, composers and music publisher members. But not one phone would ring, not one cheque would be cut, without the basic, beautiful writing of a song. This is why it’s not just important, but a deep in our bones mandate for SOCAN to not only support our members in business, but also in creativity and in craft. We’re constantly striving to improve our business of music, and amplify our role in supporting its creation.
It’s easy for me to write these words. It’s certainly easy, when having the luxury to sit and ponder for weeks on end, to seem like I have it all figured out. But that’s kind of my point. I don’t. Songs are my food, my air and my lover that never leaves. Songs are all of these things, and still I lose sight of what it’s all about sometimes. I go to work, meet songwriters, talk about their careers, talk about their goals, counsel them on the art, and yet sometimes I forget why I actually do it all and what makes it all possible.
That is, until a Sunday afternoon when I attend an ABBA tribute at a theatre in North Hollywood, with my beautiful seven-year-old son. We’re moving, singing, laughing, and when they play “Dancing Queen,” I get a chill through my soul and I actually start to cry. Yes, I actually cried to “Dancing Queen.” Songs are just that powerful. When I came home, I began to write this blog.