I read this interesting article on Billboard.com today titled, Why Solo Songwriters Are No longer Today’s Hitmakers? As a songwriter myself, I was immediately drawn into the article when they referenced Billy Joel, one of my biggest influences, in the first few sentences of the article.
“The past 40 years of the Hot 100 show that music-by-committee is the way to get a hit. If Billy Joel were breaking into the songwriting business today, he might need to make some room for collaborators. Pop hits penned by just one writer are now almost completely anachronistic.”
What does anachronistic mean?
According to Dictionary.com, it means “something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time, especially a thing or person that belongs to an earlier time:”
So solo songwriting for the most part is a thing of the past if you want to get a hit on today’s music charts – especially if you’re writing in one of the more mainstream genres like pop, country and hip hop.
But why is that?
Can’t a songwriter just subscribe to services like Hit Songs Deconstructed that help you understand how to break down a song in a variety of categories including structure, theme, genre and so forth? If there was a formula to writing a hit song, couldn’t a solo songwriter just incorporate these formulas themselves into their songwriting and produce similar results?
My answer to that is a simple “No”.
Great songs are not the result of just following a simple formula. They are a combination of authenticity, inspiration, storytelling, craft and most of all — emotion.
In fact, as the Billboard article suggests, the process of songwriting today is even different. Today, many songwriters write to a track and create multiple hooks throughout the song. Traditionally. the hook has always been in the chorus with everything in the song written strategically to bring people back to the hook. However in an ADD world, people are multitasking while they are listening to music. If songs don’t have hooks to keep them interested throughout the whole song, they won’t finish listening to them. This is something I learned from a mentoring session with Suzan Koc, a music industry publisher who has worked with such artists as Pink, Ace of Base and Christina Aguilera.
Writing all of these hooks into a song is hard work and probably more than what one songwriter can do alone successfully. In my co-writing experiences, I’ve found that many songwriters are better at one thing than others whether it’s creating melodies, producing tracks or writing lyrics. That’s why I’m a big believer in focusing what I do best and partnering with other individuals to help create that “great song experience”.
What do you do best? Lyrics, melody, music? How can you network with other songwriters to collaborate on your next great song? Join a songwriting community whether it’s a free one like our Behind-the-Scenes Music Community or paid communities like SongTown, which I reviewed in a previous post.
If you want to produce great results, surround yourself with like-minded people. Contribute, provide value and enjoy the co-writing experience. And who knows? You just might write one of the next hits to top the Billboard charts – even if you didn’t write it all by yourself.