Let's patent the pop song writing system.
A quick overview of songs by stars Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Ellie Goulding and Adele reveals some surprising similarities. In fact, all have songs that are written and produced by Max Martin, a Swedish music producer and songwriter. He has consistently written hits since the Backstreet Boys, and has more number one hits than Michael Jackson. In fact, retaining Max Martin for songwriting is pretty much a guarantee of chart success.
There is a formula to Pop music. A formula Max Martin and other hit-writers like Mikkel Eriksen, Tor Hermansen and Lukasz Gottwald (all Swedish) have mastered.
So what has happened to musicians writing their own music? Like any progressive business, the music business has specialized so that the songwriting is separated from production, which is separated from the performance. Technology is also used in creating the music and perfecting the pitch. These singers, rather than providing creative input, are the “meat behind the microphone”, like actors who play to a script. Pop singers who write their own music often inevitably fail and fall out of favor with the public, take Taylor Dayne as one example of a cautionary tale to singers who try to write their own music. Since it is the producers and studios who hold the formula for hits, the “musicians” are no more than performers. And with auto-tune, they don’t even have to sing on-key.
Like any business, the music business has created a formula that works.
Like any business they now exploit what works over and over again, for revenue. The musicians are chosen by the studios and popular for a blink of an eye. As long as the studios have access to the Swedish songwriting machine, the musicians are no longer in control of the process. The result? A homogenization of sound according to a hit formula that maximizes revenues.
I propose we patent this formula. A patent that will give rights to the singwriters who have mastered it so that no other songwriters and reproduce the same method. Will this force better songs to be written? Will it provide insentive to musicians to write their own songs outside of the formula and labels to promote a different sound? Ideally. It could also make songwriters such as Max Martin even more rich and famous.
This formula and segmented business model has worked in services and manufacturing, but I am of the opinion that somehow music should have more soul. Perhaps, as a society, we are the poorer for the perfection of the formula by the studios.