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What happens during a Songwriting Week?

Songwriting weeks (or boot camps as they’re sometimes known) are an integral part of the music publishing industry and one of the most exciting events on any label or publisher’s annual calendar.
A few weeks ago, Music Sales Group hosted their own songwriting week in central London, the publisher’s third and largest such event to date.
The musicroom blog was on hand to chat to some of the participants and find out what exactly what goes on during these intensive, week-long creative hot-houses.
The process begins with the publisher’s own talent, their songwriters and recording artists, who are then supplemented by external collaborators and unattached freelancers. These contributors were sourced through Music Sales’ networks within the industry, bringing in artists from other publishing houses and record labels.
Whilst the order and structure of specific songwriting weeks may differ, the central focus is always the same: placing people into groups they wouldn’t normally work in to encourage fresh and original ideas and writing.
During the Music Sales week, artists were placed into two writing groups per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Groups were typically made up of three people, chosen by the publisher’s A&R team. These selections were based on the team’s thoughts on who would work well together and any requests that had been made by collaborators regarding who they would like to work with in particular.
When it comes to the writing sessions of the groups themselves, the course is very much dependent on the members themselves, their writing processes and how they work together. Some groups were given briefs from record labels seeking material for upcoming recording artists, such as X Factor winners Little Mix, whilst other people decided upon their own themes and directions to come up with something totally original.
Once an idea had taken shape, groups could enter the on-site studio to lay down a demo of their song to take away to work on at a later date, although thanks to Music Sales’ dedicated studio engineer, Jonas Persson, many of the week’s demos were of a high enough quality for commercial use.
There were no deadlines as such set during the week, with artists encouraged to quickly move on from groups and ideas to produce as many potential songs as possible. These sketches of ideas could then be developed and finished off at a later date long after the week had ended. Often, songs originally thought up during a songwriting week aren’t completed until months after the initial jam.
Songwriting weeks can also act as networking events for writers to meet other artists which they may not have otherwise come across. Collaborators often go on to form productive, working relationships outside and beyond the week itself, which can be even more productive for a publisher in the long run.
This year’s Music Sales songwriting week produced 25 recorded song ideas, a potential cut on a forthcoming record by a very high profile artist and some great new creative partnerships for the future. The week was also a great opportunity to gather new material for synch and licensing—music for use in adverts, TV, movies and other mediums.
The final line up for the week was as so:
Helen Boulding (Music Sales)
Marcy Levy (Music Sales)
Gavin Clark (Music Sales)
Shridhar Solanki (Music Sales)
Tim Elsenburg (Music Sales)
Ludovico Einaudi (Music Sales)
Joel Cadbury (Music Sales)
Hauschka (Music Sales)
DJ Scanner (BUG)
Belle Humble (BMG)
Cass Lowe (Sony ATV)
Juanita Stein (Cooking Vinyl)
Sam Duckworth (Cooking Vinyl)
John McClure (Cooking Vinyl)
Simon Wilcox (Peer Music Group)
Matthew Swinnerton (Faber)
Martin Rossiter (Bucks Music)
Joe McElderry (Unpublished)
Lexi Parks (Unpublished)
Louise Hull (Unpublished)
Ed Cousins (Cooking Vinyl)
Ted Barnes (Unpublished)
Look out for interviews with some of the artists from the Music Sales songwriting week over the next few weeks on the Musicroom blog.

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