How Many People Does It Take to Make a Hit Song? A Lot, Actually

If you look at the writing credits of virtually any song by any of the big pop stars, you’ll see that there were a lot of cooks in each of those kitchens. It’s not uncommon to have a dozen or more songwriting credits attached to a single song, which is a long way from the days of Dylan and Lennon/McCartney.

So how does a hit song get manufactured today? The site 20 kHz takes a look.

Who are the hit makers? They are enormously influential culture shapers—the Spielbergs and Lucases of our national headphones—and yet they are mostly anonymous.

Directors of films are public figures, but the people behind pop songs remain in the shadows, taking aliases, by necessity if not by choice, in order to preserve the illusion that the singer is the author of the song. I knew much more about the Brill Building writers of the early ’60s than about the people behind current contemporary hit radio hits.

They all have aliases—disco names. One of the most successful is called Dr. Luke. He and his frequent songwriting partner, a Swede called Max Martin (also an alias), have had more than thirty Top 10 hits between them since 2004, and Max Martin’s own streak goes back a decade before that; more recently, he’s become Taylor Swift’s magic man.

In both volume of hits and longevity, Max Martin eclipses all previous hit makers, including the Beatles, Phil Spector, and Michael Jackson.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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