Rating songwriters - Poll

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Bob Rogers, Mar 31, 2005.

  1. Bob Rogers

    Bob Rogers Left is Right

    Feb 26, 2005
    Blacksburg, Virginia
    This question came to my mind during a covers vs. originals thead - How many really good songwriters are there? I've thought of a way to pose this as sort of a poll question. Suppose we take as a benchmark the following type of respectable journeyman songwriter: someone who has written one really excellent song, a handful of good, solid tunes, a bunch more that don't stink, and a whole load of dreck. Now, we all have different definitions of excellent, good, etc., but we all know someone who fits that profile according ot our own standards. So here is the game.

    1) Name a songwriter who fits the profile.
    2) Estimate what percentage of professional songwriters are better and what percentage of professional songwriters are worse.

    For some reason, Rod Stewart pops into my mind as fitting the profile. (No comments from me on his post 70's performances.) But as mundane as Rod is as a songwriter, the number who are better is pretty small. Maybe 10%? I guess I'm comfortable with 90% who don't even have a Maggie May in them.
  2. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Good thread!

    I would say Sting. Awesome songwriter.

    I would guess that, again, 90% are worse.

    Another great one would be Paul McCartney...with about 95% being worse.

    Billy Ray Cyrus. One hit wonder and he probably didn't even write that one. 100% are better.
  3. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    I will always love and repsect Sting, but lately his stuff seems to be solely about lyrics (as opposed to melody) and sonic texture, more than actual SONGS, as such. A guy who I think is FU*KING BRILLIANT (although not very popular on this side of the pond) is Nik Kershaw. Thoughful, biting and provocative lyrics AND catchy melodies and great production. Every musician I have ever hipped to him loves him. :bassist: :bassist: :bassist:
  4. Mel Monihan

    Mel Monihan

    Mar 30, 2004
    My "A" list for songwriters/performers looks like this.
    Lennon and McCartney
    Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
    Elton John and Bernie Taupin
    Peter Townshend
    Paul Simon
    Billy Joel
    Brian Wilson, and any number of colaborators

    I am only talking pop/rock as I am not qualified to rate many of the top show and Classical writers.
    I base my list on quality and quantity of great material that has come from these individuals. I am sure if I thought about it a little longer, there might be one or two others that would make the "A" list, but everyone else would seem to have to sit a little further down on the list than these people.
  5. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Gordon Lightfoot - maybe 30% equal him
    JJ Cale - 25% might equal him
    Ben Harper - 5% might get close to his diversity
    Police-era Sting - on par with Brian Wilson, Tom Waits, and Lennon and McCartney.
    Joe Strummer - best punk songwriter ever
  6. BassGod


    Jan 21, 2004
    Chuck Shuldiner - Maybe 10% are better. IMO the man was a genious.
    Dave Mustaine - A lot of his writing blows, but when it's good, it's REALLY good. So I'd say 30% are better.
    Steve Harris - 15% to 20% are better.

  7. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I was going to choose Sting, and your right about McCartney as well. I'll add in Jackson Browne. You may not know who he is, but you've probably heard at least one of his songs played by someone hehe. I think James Taylor, Cat Stevens, and Jimmy Cliff are also excellent songwriters.
  8. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Jackson Browne wrote a ton of music for other people including the Eagles. Good choice.

    Another songwriter (a team actually) is the Bee Gees. They wrote so many hits for other people besides themselves it's mindboggling.
  9. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB

    Jan 28, 2001
    New York
    John Rzeznik (Goo Goo Dolls)
    35% better, 65% worse.
  10. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    My off the cuff A list:
    Peter Gabriel
    Arjen Lucassen
    Neil Morse/Roine Stolt/Mike Portnoy
    Paul Simon
    AC Jobim
    The Bee Gees
    Dave Mustaine
  11. Broach_insound


    Jan 25, 2005
    New York
    Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam !!!!
  12. Bob Dylan

    About 5% better 90% are worse.
  13. Bob Rogers

    Bob Rogers Left is Right

    Feb 26, 2005
    Blacksburg, Virginia
    Some very interesting responses. Most of the estimates indicate that there are more good songwriters than I would guess. (I know we are all just picking numnbers out of the air, but the point is to give our impressions.) Here is the way I had it in mind. Suppose you had some large list of "professional" song writers. Say the ASCAP and BMI membership list. (Or maybe a subset of that list that constituted "real" professionals.) If I say Rod Stewart sits at 10%, that means I have a 1 in 10 chance that someone chosen randomly from that list will be a better songwriter than Rod. Someone put JJ Cale at 25%. That means you have a 1 in 4 chance of pulling a better songwriter out of the pile. My impression is that it would be harder than that. No?

    Also, I've thought of another analogy for my "benchmark" Identify the "Mario Mendoza" of professional songwriting. For those who are not into baseball, Mendoza was a great fielding shortstop who barely hit .200 in the major leagues. A .200 average is know as the "Mendoza line" with the implication that anyone below it is not really a major leaguer. So another way to frame my question is: what percentage of pro songwriters are major leaguers. (You get to define pro songwriter and major leaguer.)
  14. Mel Monihan

    Mel Monihan

    Mar 30, 2004
    That becomes a real toughie because there are many great staff writers for record labels and independents who write major hits in all of the various markets who remain in the backround.Many of these writers prefer their anonymity to the hassels of being mobbed at every streetcorner.
    Also, are you measuring their success by having written great tunes, or having made a ton of money? The two are not always synonymous.Many of the tunes I consider great, I don't even recognize the name of the author or authors.They are kind of like Mr. Mendoza. By the way, please excuse my spelling, I think I repeated third grade 3 times.
  15. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Judging from the list we've already compiled, I'd have to say that out of all the songwriters there are, or have been, roughly 10%-20% are major league songwriters.

    Using a sports analogy, think of how many kids play football. Then think of how many who played high school football ever made it on a college team. Then out of all those thousands and thousands on college teams, how many acutally make it to the pros?

    FROM A STAT WEBSITE...There are approximately 115 division I Football teams. Each can carry a roster of approximately 100 players. That means that are about 11,500 athletes competing in Division I. In this year's NFL draft there will be a total of 261 selections made during 7 rounds. Let's say for the sake of this discussion that every player drafted makes the NFL (a HUGE stretch of the imagination). Let's say that half of those players are eligible for draft (seniors or other who have decided to declare for the draft early.) The means that means that 0.045% (261/5750) of division I football players will go pro. A more realistic prediction is that players in the first three rounds will likely make their respective teams for 0.017 % (98/5750) success rate.

    Pretty insignificant number. I would think that out of all the garage bands that have ever been, where a small percentage of those musicians even dream of "making it", how many ever develop the skills on their instrument and can even write a halfway decent song?

    Out of those few who can, how many actually have even one of those songs recorded? And out of those, how many ever write even one more decent song? And out of those, how many get selected by a fickle audience to even consider one of them to be good enough to become popular? AND out of those, how many become popular enough and are good enough to write even more good songs?

    Man, it is truly staggering to think of guys like McCartney, Elton John, the Bee Gees, Sting, or a handful of others that accomplished what they did. Truly awesome talent...even if you don't care for their music.
  16. Some that impress me are
    Liz Phair
    Stevie Wonder
    Duke Ellington
    Donald Fagen
    Billy Corgan
    Dave Grohl
  17. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    I think most of the writer's that have been mentioned are in the cream of the crop.

    Think of all the country, pop, metal , nu metal, and modern R&B/Gospel, etc. songs that are simply recycled versions of classic sounds. Most any genre has alot of filler bands that copy the true genius from their genre.

    When I judge a songwriter I look for a few things:

    1. Expression of emotion; Toms Waits has got the "drink-yourself-to-death" depression sound nailed
    2. Originality of lyrics
    3. Understanding of harmony and song construction
    and leastly
    4. Singing Ability; I listen to them if they have the other three criteria locked down; as long as they don't sound like someone is skinning a cat.

    A few more songwriters that I thought of

    Neil Young; quality songs and I would say 50% could write as good him, but the Stings, McCartneys, Lennons, and the Dylans of the world bury him in most respects

    Micheal Akerfeld; amazing voice (when he sings) and a ton of vocal and musical ability. Him is probably a "Sting" of the modern metal world.
  18. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    A couple of guys that people forgot:

    Prince - 10%
    Tom Petty - 20%
    Smokey Robinson - 25%

    If hit tunes are any measure of sonwriting ability, you can include Desmond Child. He wrote alot of the glam-metal stuff that became hits in the 80s.
  19. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Jim Croce - I only know time in a bottle, but I bet that song got him mad laid.
  20. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    My boss is huge Motown fan and he was telling me that Smokey Robinson wrote hundreds of those songs. I sure couldn't disagree with that choice.