Chris ‘Hollywood’ Holmes (CAT’s Audio Engineering & Production Department Head) shares how important it is to get credit for your projects.
Decades ago, when you worked on an album or single, your name would appear in the liner notes that came with a CD, cassette, or vinyl. I can remember being young and being more interested in who recorded an album, than who played on it.
This is where my first influences in engineering and producing came from. Seeing names like Bob Rock, Brendan O’Brien, or Michael Beinhorn in the credits on most of the albums I loved made me realize that more so than the artists themselves, these people were a key part to the music.
This practice has followed me my whole life; I hear an album or song I love, and I immediately have to look at the credits to find out who helped create it. Unfortunately, with the near-death of physical media, credits are becoming harder and harder to find.
If I ask a class full of students who their favourite engineers or producers are, a job that they themselves aspire to, very few can name any influences outside of producers-turned-artists like Kanye West.
This lack of knowledge about the people who make the music they love isn’t their fault, it’s a lack of accessibility. With a generation that has mostly grown up on pirating music, YouTube, and Spotify, very few have any concept of who is even involved in making albums.
This is further compounded by the lack of respect for audio work in general. Spotify is lagging heavily in this area, begrudgingly adding composer/writer credits in 2020 but has yet to add other credits.
Want more proof? Go to YouTube and look up Michael Buble’s most recent single, “I’ll Never Not Love You.” The info panel is full of credits for everyone involved in the song and video.
The record label is credited, to the entire film crew, including personal assistants and caterers, and quite literally anyone involved in it, except for one missing name: Greg Wells. Greg Wells produced and co-wrote the song and album; he also engineered it alongside Joe Chiccarelli and played almost all the instruments. It’s essentially a Greg Wells song that Michael Bublé is singing, but Greg’s name is nowhere to be found. A dozen other audio names should be included but simply aren’t.
This leads us to today’s problem: How do you get credit so that people know you exist?
Without some visibility online or within creative communities, your work largely goes unnoticed, which leads to difficulty continuing to get work. As I outlined above, this isn’t easy when working in music.
So what can you do as a small engineer or producer getting their start?
First, have frank discussions with the artists you work with, explain how critical the credits are and show them how to add them if needed.
Most digital aggregators such as TuneCore, CDBaby, or the most popular DistroKid have easy ways to add credits to digital releases. They also offer updates and fixes at any time.
I tested DistroKid and was able to add credits with ease, and about a week later, I corrected it. The correction showed up in less than 48 hours on the platforms that would display it.
Ask artists to include your social handles in any posts they make about the album’s release or single. Ask them to include you in the Bandcamp/YouTube/ platforms.
Before a single or album is even released, ask the artists’ permission to do “teasers” through your TikTok or Instagram with small nondescript clips from the album. Getting credit for your work does nothing but expand an artist’s reach, as you will be more incentivized to market it for your own benefit.
Remember this when working in music: your next gig often comes from someone hearing the one you just finished. Your last project is often the catalyst for the next one. This only works if someone can look up a song they like and see your name.
It would help if you had a website to show off your credits and document all the projects you’ve worked on.
Simple one-pagers can be built with many website building sites, and all you need is a basic Who / What / Where / Credit. Who was the artist, what did you work on, and when did it release?
What’s even better is using apps like the new Muso.ai. Muso uses metadata from digital aggregators to store, catalogue, and generate analytics from your credits. Relatively new, it comes with a monthly cost; it’s a great way to humblebrag about what you’ve done and entice people to work with you. They have easy-to-add share options for TikTok and Instagram, which increases the awareness of the app, and further expands its validity.
The final point to consider when working on any project is the value of the credit.
While financial stability plays a huge part in this decision, a credit is far more valuable than any monetary gain from a project.
I will take pay cuts if I think the credit will do more for my career than the money. I will often take jobs on short notice with high stress for a good credit.
To me, credit is always the highest-value currency I trade in.
I have friends who work as ghost mixers for labels, and while they may mix hundreds of songs a year and have a steady income stream, no one knows they are doing that work.
When that job dries up, they will have a gap in their resume that they can’t really fill.
Credit. Is. Everything.
By Chris Holmes, Department Head, Audio Engineering and Production