I loved this article I caught on The Atlantic last week:
It’s about the business of popular music. All of your Big Hits are created by maybe a half-dozen people. They have the perhaps unteachable instinct for what the people want.
A quote on songwriting:
“The songs are written industrially as well, often by committee and in bulk… almost no pop celebrities write their own hits. Too much is on the line for that, and being a global celebrity is a full-time job. It would be like Will Smith writing the next Independence Day.”
So don’t be too impressed with Taylor Swift. What a relief it is to know that they don’t do it all.
On audience attention spans:
“[in a song] you need a new high every seven seconds—[that’s] the average length of time a listener will give a radio station before changing the channel. [A Roc Nation co-founder says,] ‘You’ve got to have a hook in the intro, a hook in the pre, a hook in the chorus, and a hook in the bridge, too.’”
We’re all carnival barkers with seven seconds (probably less) to get the audience into our tents, and even less time to keep them there. Hook, hook, hook, never lag.
“Pop hitmakers frequently flirt with plagiarism, with good reason: Audiences embrace familiar sounds. Sameness sells.”
Which made me wonder: why mix up a new color when the people have shown that they only want the primaries? I like experimenting and using new tools. But I also like not doing that. When I’m writing, hitting the same old notes gives a thrill, just like how sugar always tastes good. Both avenues (making new magic, or re-capturing old magic) are just as challenging.
And we know this isn’t limited to music or movies. I wonder to what extent our superstar writers are packaged. Do the editors behind a good bestseller just give suggestions or are they veto-wielding overlords?
I think it would be cool to be a product, honed and trued by people who know what connects and who know the psychological whys behind marketing. Be a sellout, why the hell not. I’m just like everyone, I want to be loved for saying something. I’m pretty good at lying and saying I don’t, though.