While the process of group-writing a song is not a new concept, a recent look at the Top Ten hits suggests that having more songwriters involved in the creation of a song can improve its chances of topping the charts.
Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0
When it comes to writing top 10 hits, it appears that the more songwriters you have, the better. That’s because the average number of songwriters for the top 10 streaming hits of 2018 in the U.S. was a whopping 9.1, according to research done by Music Business Weekly based on information stored in the ASCAP and/or BMI databases.
The 9.1 figure is actually a little misleading in that Drake’s “In My Feelings” has 16 credited songwriters, and his “Nice For What” has 21. Cardi B/Bad Bunny/J Balvin’s “I Like It,” has 15. If you subtract these songs, the average actually declines to 5.6 songwriters per song.
Across the Top 15 streaming tracks in 2018, that average songwriter-per-hit number was 8.13, while the Top 20 showed 7.3 and the entire Top 25 had an average composer number of 6.48.
In fact, the only track in the Top 25 with just one credited writer is Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” at #23, although later released versions of the song featured Beyoncé and Andrea Bocelli and they were also credited as writers.
The Three Scenarios
I have several thoughts on this development. First, it’s great that so many people involved in the production are getting a piece of the publishing action. In some cases (like producers and engineers), this is long overdue, so kudos to the artists for making this happen.
My second thought is that this is a cover-your-behind tactic designed to head off a possible lawsuit down the road. If the person(s) was in the room when the song was being created, they were given a piece of the action whether they had any creative input or not. That goes a long way in ensuring that there won’t be an expensive lawsuit at some later point in time because someone believed they played a bigger part in the production than they were actually credited (or not credited) for.
The problem here is that administering the publishing of so many writers on a single song becomes a nightmare, especially if some of the “songwriters” don’t already have publishers or aren’t connect to a PRO. And determining the royalty split and payout to 30 writers (yes, that’s an extreme case but a real one on Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode”) on a song that doesn’t make that much money, it’s a big loser for the publisher.
The third scenario is that the song was actually written by a large committee. In just about all walks of life, anything done by committee suffers from an homogenization of ideas, and songwriting is no different. Of course, we’re seeing the most extreme cases of this in hip-hop, so maybe that’s not a problem after all.