Think your favourite musician wrote their hit song? Think again

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Think your favourite musician wrote their hit song? Think again

real writers hit songs
Words by Christie Eliezer

How many writers does it take to make a hit song?

How many writers does a bestselling single need? Drake’s ‘One Dance’, had eight writers. Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’, the bestselling single of 2015 had 13 credited writers. Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin’s ‘I Like It’ has 15 – and Beyonce’s ‘Hold Up’ had 13.

Music Business Weekly from ASCAP and/or BMI databases found that in 2018, there was an average of 8.13 songwriters per song in the Top 15 charts of the year’s streaming tracks. The Top 20 showed seven and the Top 25 averaged six and a half. Only Ed Sheeran’s original version of ‘Perfect’ had a sole writer.

A 2017 study from Music Reports, based on Billboard Top 10s since the 1960s, found that the average hit song these days has over four writers and six different publishers.

  • 1960s – 1.87 writers, 1.68 publishers
  • 1970s – 1.95 writers, 2.04 publishers
  • 1980s – 1.95 writers, 2.06 publishers
  • 1990s– 3.13 writers, 3.49 publishers
  • 2000s – 3.50 writers, 4.96 publishers
  • 2010s– 4.07 writers, 6.00 publishers

Music Week analysed the 100 biggest singles of 2016 and found only four were written by a sole writer, and it takes an average of four-and-a-half writers to create a hit single.

Executives explained singer-songwriters once had the luxury of two or three albums to hone their skills and find their voice, but these days they need to slam hard immediately, which means a committee is formed to create the hit.

Little wonder that Billboard magazine has launched new weekly Hot 100 charts to spotlight songwriters and producers – seen as the right step to equity in the music industry and more recognition for those working behind the scenes.

The first charts (published June 15) were topped by Finneas O’Connell, thanks to four Top 100 hits which the 21-year old produced and wrote or co-wrote with his sister, Billie Eilish. J. Cole was at number two with two songs and Eilish at number three.

Toronto hitmaker Frank Dukes has, in the past five years, written or produced 44 Top 100 entries – including Lorde’s ‘Green Light’ and Drake’s ‘Fake Love’ – and in March 2019 alone, contributed to Jonas Brothers’ ‘Sucker’ and Rosalía and J Balvin’s reggaetón ‘Con Altura’.

He told Billboard, “No one fucking cares if you did it all by yourself. If you can make the best music ever but it requires bringing in a few different perspectives, I’d rather make the best music ever.”