Stacking the deck

So for a while now, I’ve been hearing some stuff about the producer for the new Brian Free and Assurance project (who is NOT Wayne Haun, alas). Evidently BFA’s label, Daywind, and this producer have agreed that BFA has to record at least three songs that the producer has written. Honestly.

The producer, Barry Weeks, is obviously quite talented as a songwriter (”Truth is Marching On,” “Mountain Mover”). He’s produced the Booth Brothers and wrote several songs on that project. So it’s not that he’s unworthy of the cuts as a songwriter. It’s the self-interested squelching of the competition that’s troubling. If he’s at all worth his headphones as a producer, he has to know that the best song selection for an album comes from songwriters competing for a limited number of slots on a project. Stacking the deck is how you make weak records, no matter who you are.

I wonder if this is the same guy whom songwriter Joel Lindsey blogs about here. Even if it isn’t, it’s nice to know that a talented guy like Lindsey appears to agree with me, or maybe I’m agreeing with him. No matter, money quote:

I have said it before and I will say it again… TO THE ARTISTS: If my song is not the best song for your project, DON’T RECORD IT. But if you throw my song into the pile of potential songs for your project and IF IT IS THE BEST, don’t let ANYONE (record company, producer, publisher, etc.) keep you from recording it. I don’t want cuts, if I have get them the wrong way. I mean that. I’d rather fold shirts at The Gap. Of course, I’m just arrogant enough to think that if politics were removed I’d actually get more cuts, but who knows? I just know that I love writing and getting songs recorded and being proud of the work that I do. And I love getting cuts because my songs were the cream of the crop…not because I twisted someone’s arm to manuever cuts on the project.

One point Lindsey doesn’t make is that producer-friendly deals not only shut out potentially worthier songs, but also give the producer/songwriter an incentive to submit less than his best songs, since he knows he’s guaranteed a fixed number of cuts. So not only do other songwriters get shafted. So do the artist and the listener. Of course, I’m sure BFA and their new producer would say that they’re getting the best from everyone all the time, including from Weeks’ songbook, but once you’ve put your thumb on the scale, it’s hard to take a “trust me” terribly seriously.

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  1. Ricky Free wrote:

    I’m not quite sure where you receive all your information. Apparently, your source is quite flawed….

  2. Phil wrote:

    Uh, Ricky, if the source is quite flawed maybe you could point out the mistakes…

  3. CVH wrote:

    I’m not familiar with Weeks’ work but hopefully the material will be justifiably good. Still, the notion of an artist being required to record tunes by a producer or writers from that publisher/record company’s stable is unfortunate.

    I mentioned here a few months ago in relation to another post that Tempo Records and Lillenas Publishing had such an arrangement in the early 70’s. Mosie Lister was their big writer and most groups had to include several of his copyrights on their projects. Nothing against his writing, but there’s no way a label can say they’re trying to help an artist carve out their own identity, present their ministry in its truest form and help them grow their outreach when they limit or restrict the means by which they can do it.

    To some degree, labels used to be in the business of growing their acts; helping them develop, working with them as individuals and pooling resources so that everyone, sooner or later, would share in the increase, be it sales, chart position and airplay, bigger gates, etc.
    Not any more.

    If a label makes a separate production deal with a producer that can supercede the ability of a group to choose the material they want to record (unless that provision is included in their contract with the label), it’s time for the group to look for a new home.

    Of course, Weeks will also enjoy the mechanical royalties which probably isn’t a lot compared with his production fee, but still, those are dollars being taken out of the hands of other worthy writers whose work won’t be considered.

    Oh, and a very minor point but I wouldn’t necessarily use the phrase, “If he’s at all worth his headphones as a producer…”; no serious producer listens or mixes with headphones.

  4. anonymous wrote:

    Who are you to say, and why does it matter who wrote the songs? I’m sure BFA feel all the songs they sing or record are worthy or they wouldn’t sing them. Why can’t we just leave things alone instead of making a mountain out of a mole hill. I for one am thankful that BFA have stood the test and didn’t give up. I am blessed every time I hear them, so BFA, keep doing what you do and keep singin like you are singin…..

  5. dkd wrote:

    Anonymous: You may be missing the point. From past experience I know for a fact that there are producers/songwriters who do “gently” persuade the artist’s to use their songs on a project. Funny how the songs that are written by a producer/songwriter are usually the ones that are released as a single for radio. I am not implying that there is anything wrong with the songs used (often they are very good) sometimes exceptional, but the point is the artist is often pressured to use these songs. I don’t know that to be the case with Brian Free & Assurance, but I’m sure that Brian will have a flawless project regardless of the writers.

  6. THOM wrote:

    Fill us in Ricky - give us your perspective. btw, hope you are doing well and enjoying the married life!

    Thom Rawls

  7. Wayne wrote:

    “So not only do other songwriters get shafted. {FRAGMENT}So does the artist and the listener. {FRAGMENT}”

    I must say that seeing you write so many fragments is diminishing my confidence in academia.

  8. Tom wrote:

    I was directed to this website specifically to read your comments about Barry Weeks.

    You have represented heresay as factual, in this case, and it simply discredits you personally and professionally. The music business, especially the so-called “Christian” music business, is full of jealousy, deception, fraud, and all the other sinful traits man and woman have to offer one another. It isn’t a surprise to see this here, it’s just

  9. Videoguy wrote:

    Avery, in order to accept the leap taken by your post requires me to assume that BFA lacks equity in an artist-label relationship, as if BF just recently hung out his shingle. I’ve always enjoyed your fresh perspectives, but this one is calling for Dr. Scholls.

    Anyone here wanna bet that BF didn’t get a free-willed chance to sign off on the songs on his own project prior to recording? Not me.

  10. Ricky Free wrote:

    Well Phil…Since you would like to know…

    Wayne Haun and Barry Weeks are amazing producers. Barry is indeed going to produce our upcoming project, and we are very excited to be working with him. That is the only true portion of the original post, which probably makes up about 5% of what was said. We go through HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of songs when we are choosing material for a new record. As of right now, there are only 7 of the 10 songs picked for the new record. Just because someone produces a record has NOTHING to do with how many cuts you get, or whether you get any at all. We choose songs that will minister to the people we sing to. We don’t care who wrote them. Whether you are a well known songwriter, or somebody that has never gotten a major cut before…. If your song is a great song, then you have just as much of a shot as the next guy. Barry is a wonderful songwriter as well as a producer. Barry might indeed get a song/some songs on the new record and we hope he does. As I said before, all the songs have not been picked. We as a group are not persuaded or contracted in to recording ANY certain amount of ANYONE’S songs. Quite frankly when it comes to material we record, the buck stops at Brian Free. So all the hearsay of ‘well the record company said they have to cut X amount of songs blah blah blah’ is simply false. I only commented because I didn’t want to see Barry getting dragged through the mud over something SO silly, and more importantly FALSE. I suppose whoever it is that is playing the little bird in Douglas’ ear must be a disgruntled songwriter, or else he wouldn’t be downing other talented songwriters. So this debate could go on forvever, but you are hearing it right here from the horse’s mouth. This post isn’t just a perspective, or merely my opinion. This is how it is, because I listen to the material as well. If that’s not good enough, then I guess you can pull out the liner notes and see for yourself when the record comes out this summer…

  11. Phil wrote:

    Thanks Ricky for setting the record straight!! I loved the last project and am glad that there is no contractual obligation to put anyones song on the new project.

  12. THOM wrote:

    Thanks Ricky - and if the new project is anything close to the last 2 it will be another big success. btw, did you read the original blog that was referenced when this whole conversation started? I “think” the blog that was referenced was “the source” for the original comments. Moderator: correct me if I am wrong.

  13. CVH wrote:

    Wayne, academia aside, I’m not sure that the grammatical rules for blogging and webspeak necessarily follow the Chicago Manual of Style.

  14. Ricky Free wrote:


    Btw hey! And how have you been? lol Haven’t seen you in a while.

    Actually no I didn’t even read that blog that was linked. I wish I had now because my sentence in the previous post about a “disgruntled songwriter” DEFINITELY doesn’t apply to Mr. Joel Lindsey. We have cut several of his songs in the past and he’s at the top of my list of favorite writers. He’s obviously not talking about us or Barry in his blog. Or if he is, maybe there’s just some mistaken information somewhere, or it’s just a coincidence. Like I said before, the proof will be in the liner notes!

  15. quartet-man wrote:

    I am glad to read this is false. However, it definitely has happened in about any music genre. At the very least, people have had to record songs from the same publishing company. This does sometimes make for a lesser project. It is one thing if you like the songs equally to choose one that will make the label or producer more money. But the idea of having to accept songs that you might not like at all, or like less is bad business for the artist at least. I might even say it is bad for the label. They are chasing after pennies when if better songs were on the CD, they may sell more copies and make more that way. That was something I learned in Econ. You may make more money selling more of something for less than selling fewer for more. Same principle to me.

    Also, sometimes a song may be great, but not a good fit for an artist. Even if it is a good fit, if an artist is not behind it, the song might not do as well. There are exceptions though. George Jones did not like He Stopped Loving Her Today at all, but it became his signature song.

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