Many of those who enjoy listening to music don't know about the long process of changing a song from a diamond in the rough into a polished gem. During a recent meeting of the Gatesville Lions Club, Pat Chesser revealed some of the things that happen behind the scenes.
"I've been in the music business for 65 years. I started playing the guitar when I was four years old and I've got pictures to prove it," Chesser said. He formed a band with his brothers at age six, and as an adult he performed with legendary country stars such as Mel Tillis and Ray Price.
"When you hear a song on the radio it's 2 minutes and 55 seconds and then it's gone," Chesser said. "Behind that song it might have taken six months or more to produce it."
Musicians collaborate with other musicians, rehearsing a song for a week or 10 days before going into a studio to record it. Studio time can cost $2,000 an hour.
"You go through a song one time and then they do a scratch track in the key that the song will be played in," Chesser said, adding that other musicians join in and add their instruments to the track.
An engineer then works to refine the song, putting all the parts together.
"By the end of the day, you've got it," Chesser said.
But that's only part of the process.
"They may add harmony singing later, or the original singer may do the harmony himself," Chesser said.
The next step involves a lawyer working up a contract with musicians and their representatives.
"All of the sudden things slow way down because now we're in the legal system and things move very, very slowly," Chesser said.
Part of the lawyer's job is determining the compensation for those involved.
Those promoting the song decide on a release date, which Chesser said is often months away from the original recording date.
"In the meantime, here comes the publicist and everybody else to promote it," Chesser said.
Radio station disc jockeys get an advance copy of the song that they can listen to, but they cannot play on the air yet. The idea is that the disc jockeys will begin to talk about an upcoming song to help drum up interest before the public hears it.
"That's how a two-and-a-half-minute song gets made," Chesser said. "The song you hear on the radio goes through a six- or eight-month process before you hear it."
He said people might think, "What a great song" and go on to the next song, not realizing all the work it took before the song was released.
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