Sunday, September 24, 2006

iTunes, No Songwriters

Over the weekend my wife and I were searching iTunes looking for an artist we had heard on XM Crosscountry during the week. We successfully found Solomon Burke and after a little sampling we found the song we had heard, What Good Am I?

I skimmed the part of a review that an iTunes user had written and discovered what I thought to be true. Solomon Burke interprets songs written by others. I wondered who had written What Good Am I? I scrolled through the review and discovered that Bob Dylan had written it. So I searched iTunes some more and found the Bob Dylan version on the album Oh Mercy, one of the few studio Dylan records I do not own.

This experience set me to thinking. Why doesn’t iTunes provide the songwriters for a selection?

My wife informed that not all listeners are as interested in those details as we are. In our family we truly value songwriters. It is our passion to know who wrote a song and it is thrill to find out the song was a traditional song or written by some “old time” songwriter.

It seems to me that showing only the artist leaves the songwriter out of the picture for the listener. Without the songwriter there would be no song for the artist to interpret. For many artists this is not a problem because they are the songwriter.

To illustrate this point consider the song that is the name of the blog, Boats to Build. It was written and recorded by Guy Clark. The song has also been recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker (Cowboy Boots Bathin Suits) available on iTunes and Jimmy Buffett (License to Chill) not available on iTunes. Searching iTunes you can find two other artists that have recorded the song, Gove Scrivenor (Shine On) and a band City Mouse from Minnesota (Long Time No See). The band City Mouse also recorded Guy Clark’s Baton Rouge. No where on iTunes does the songwriter appear.

I figured it was a problem with the Gracenotes Database. If you have ever imported a CD into your iTunes library to put on your iPod you have seen the program access Gracenotes. So I searched Gracenotes. They do not list the songwriter. They also did not have a listing for Gove Scrivenor or City Mouse.

It probably is a difficult proposition to database the songwriters. Of course on some album selections in iTunes you receive an eBook that is essentially the liner notes. But this is not as available as I would like.

I guess I will continue to buy CD’s rather than purchase everything on iTunes. I am just addicted to liner notes and the need to know who wrote the song. As gawilli said, “not everyone is as interested in the songwriter as we are.” What do you blog readers think?

Courtesy of Odd Mix




Blogger Jay said...

I like to know who wrote the songs too. There are a lot of great songs that I remember hearing as a kid that I didn't know who wrote them until somebody did one of those "100 greatest country/rock/whatever songs of all time" specials.

I have noticed that some of the video channels show the song writer but some don't. Of course they all show what label the artist is with. Gotta get that corporate name out there at all times.

Love the pics. Way to interpret the words.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Molly said...

I like your pictures. I especially like the "values" in your objective picture.

About the songwriters, I may not be looking for the songwriter, but I think that the original writer deserves written credit. When I buy a CD, I do want the lyrics included as part of the package.

10:41 PM  
Blogger Swampwitch said...

I enjoyed listening to your links. And I wish I paid more attention to impressed with those who do. Just now learning about iTunes and using my iPod.Thanks. This motivates me.

11:08 PM  
Blogger gawilli said...

I agree with mjd, the objective picture says so much more than first glance. That's my favorite.

iTunes has you by the stranglehold. The music is less expensive, and more readily available than mail order, which is our other option since chains do not usually carry what we like. It's hard for me to be patient and wait for the real thing to come in the mail. You know, instant gratification and all...

7:05 PM  
Blogger fred cracklin said...

I think the problem is that Gracenote is primarily user-updated. Yep. One of them "smart mobs". They are also kinda lazy mobs, and most can scarcely be bothered to list the song titles. I had it return track listings for one of my CDs, and it gave me only one word from the title of each song.

You can fight the power by submitting your own track listings (with songwriters included) to Gracenote, I believe. However, that's a lot of work!

I have also heard tell of alternative databases besides Gracenote. They might be more complete, but I'm not savvy enough to figure out how to get iTunes to query them...

7:55 PM  
Blogger SongBird said...

This blog reader likes to absorb every bit of information available about the music she purchases. I want to know who the composer is, the lyricist, who is playing each other words...I want to know it all! I am a music educator which might mean I am bit more "intense" when it comes to music, but, really credit should be given to everyone involved in the production of the art.

Thanks for dropping by my site. Come back often!

9:09 PM  
Blogger willi said...

Songbird: Sounds like you are like me-still buying the CD so you can read the liner notes.

9:29 PM  
Blogger willi said...

Fred Cracklin: Trust you to know so much about this. What is the name of the other database?

Perhaps, you have highlighted the new music revoulution-flooding Gracenotes with the names of songwriters!

9:30 PM  
Blogger Tink said...

I like knowing who wrote the songs... although "remembering" them is another issue. I have a horrible memory for it :).

The "Value" picture is wonderful. I love the angle you shot it at so that the guitars stagger out.

2:51 PM  
Blogger graymama said...

Since my science guy Hubby is also a guitarist and I have been known to play 3 instruments myself, 1) we always want to know the history of a song and 2) Hubby would drool over your Value shot.

As for, iPOD speak, I don't understand. We don't have one :-P

6:17 PM  
Blogger fred cracklin said...

I found that other CD database project. MusicBrainz.

I don’t know how easy it is to get it to sync with your iTunes, but at least I’ve determined its existence…

9:58 PM  
Blogger Annie said...

Sad to say that it has been (almost) 3 years since you wrote this and STILL no progress! Maybe it's because all these new "popstars" don't write ANY music, but yet they want their public to THINK they do. I can't tell you how many times I've told my kids, that's been done before. Thankfully, they are now levitating toward the originals.

Here's to hoping!

1:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's because the lawyers advised them that their exposure to a lawsuit increases by listing all the production credit details.

11:22 PM  

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