The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory
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Ryan Holiday (Founder/Brass Check)I've been meaning to read this book for a while, and after I did I bought copies for everyone at my company (since we produce books and other kinds of content). In the book, Seabrook explains how just a few men and women are responsible for producing nearly every hit song you hear on the radio, see on YouTube or listen to on Spotify. He explains the economics of the music industry in a way that allows you to understand why music is the way that is today (the good parts and the bad parts). As someone who tends to listen to songs on repeat while I write--usually bad songs--it was interesting to hear how many of them were made. My only gripe: He neglects a couple people I would have liked to hear more about like Sia and Linda Perry who are just as prolific as Dr. Luke and Max Martin.
Over the last two decades a new type of hit song has emerged, one that is almost inescapably catchy. Pop songs have always had a "hook," but today’s songs bristle with them: a hook every seven seconds is the rule. Painstakingly crafted to tweak the brain's delight in melody, rhythm, and repetition, these songs are highly processed products. Like snack-food engineers, modern songwriters have discovered the musical "bliss point." And just like junk food, the bliss point leaves you wanting more.
In The Song Machine, longtime New Yorker staff writer John Seabrook tells the story of the massive cultural upheaval that produced these new, super-strength hits. Seabrook takes us into a strange and surprising world, full of unexpected and vivid characters, as he traces the growth of this new approach to hit-making from its obscure origins in early 1990s Sweden to its dominance of today's Billboard charts.
Journeying from New York to Los Angeles, Stockholm to Korea, Seabrook visits specialized teams composing songs in digital labs with new "track-and-hook" techniques. The stories of artists like Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Rihanna, as well as expert songsmiths like Max Martin, Stargate, Ester Dean, and Dr. Luke, The Song Machine shows what life is like in an industry that has been catastrophically disrupted―spurring innovation, competition, intense greed, and seductive new products.
Going beyond music to discuss money, business, marketing, and technology, The Song Machineexplores what the new hits may be doing to our brains and listening habits, especially as services like Spotify and Apple Music use streaming data to gather music into new genres invented by algorithms based on listener behavior.
Fascinating, revelatory, and original, The Song Machine will change the way you listen to music.
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