Some people think writing a hit song is easy. They’re so simple – lyrics, melody, etc. But a new study found that the number of writers and publishers involved in the average hit song has increased a lot over the decades. Today, the study found, most hit songs have at least 4 different songwriters and 6 different publishers.
The study, done by Music Reports using Billboard Top 10 data since the 1960s, showed that during the 60s the average hit song only had 1.87 writers and 1.68 publishers. It looked at data from 1960 to the present day. During the first 3 decades of the golden age of recorded music, the number of people involved with a hit song did not rise substantially.
During the 90s, however, the numbers shot up. Since then (during the 2000s and 2010s) the number continued to climb to where it sits today.
Bill Colitre, Music Reports’ Vice President and General Counsel had this to say about the study data:
“Looking at the Songdex data, what’s particularly interesting is that the increase in the average number of publishers per song is even greater than that of the number of writers. This analysis underscores why music licensing, administration and royalty accounting is such a specialized area, and if a company can’t maintain a refined, reliable database like Songdex – for all music, whatever the era – they run a real risk of missing critical rights information.”
According to DigitalMusicNews.com:
It gets complicated real quick with more people. If you wrote the lyrics, did you write all? Some? If some, what percentage? Did you write the whole melody? Some? What percentage? What about the chord progression? Or including something new to the song?
Anyone who has worked on songwriting for major label stuff knows that half (or more) of the writers have nothing to do with actually writing or composing the work, it is more about leverage and credits/pub income for the artist, producer, etc.
It’s no wonder royalty payments and licensing can get so complicated and why payouts are often so small.