“The Song Factories Have Closed!”: Songwriting Camps as Spaces of Collaborative Creativity in the Post-Industrial Age

Jan Herbst, Michael Ahlers, Simon Barber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores “songwriting camps,” a contemporary form of collaborative music creation initiated primarily by record labels and music publishers but also by producers and enthusiasts. In such camps, musicians produce songs for various purposes, from commercial exploitation to self-actualization. This research explores the origins of industrialized songwriting, collaborative songwriting practices, and current thinking on creativity and copyright with a view to interrogating how songwriting camps relate to commercial songwriting practices in popular music since the early twentieth century. We find that camps have a proven track record of producing commercially successful pop songs and are deemed beneficial by songwriters for developing their careers and skills, networking, gaining industry contacts, and generating royalty income. We argue that while camps have adapted to the post-industrial age, characterized by digital music creation tools aiding musicians, they owe more to the past than is perhaps acknowledged. Songwriting camps are a microcosm in which many of the same tensions, strategies, goals, and relationships can be observed as in past structures from the Brill Building era, or organizations like Motown. Camps draw on features from these historical examples, such as: strategic, time-limited collaboration, clearly delineated roles, friendly competition among writers, and group evaluation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCreative Industries Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Jun 2024
  • Songwriting Camps: Geschichte, Theorien und Forschungsansätze zur Fließband-Produktion von populärer Musik

    Translated title of the contribution: Songwriting Camps: History, theories and research approaches to the assembly line production of popular musicHerbst, J. & Ahlers, M., 8 Sep 2023, (Accepted/In press) Parallelgesellschaften: Effekte struktureller Mehrgleisigkeit auf populäre Musik, ihre Erforschung und Vermittlung. von Appen, R., Prieske, S. & Huber, M. (eds.). Transcript

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

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