×

How Many Writers on a Song? Why Teamwork Makes the Dream Work (Guest Column)

Making a hit song is hardly a solitary experience, writes Maverick's Nick Jarjour.

Of the 30 most-consumed songs featured on the 2018 Hitmakers list, several credit more than 10 songwriters and a few, like Travis Scott’s epic “Sicko Mode,” utilized as many as six producers. Some might scoff that it takes more than a dozen people to come up with a few minutes of music, but the truth is, in a lot of instances, it does.

Like making a movie or a TV show, creating a hit is a collaboration. It often starts with an idea — it could be in the form of a riff, a beat, loop or a simple voice memo. From there, a songwriter or artist will begin to think of melodies or lyrics that both stand out and work together. Other times, a chorus or phrase may come first, onto which an artist or writer will seek out a beat to start to develop a song.

But making a hit is hardly a solitary experience. Most listeners don’t see how much work goes into constructing a successful record — many also don’t bother to look up the credits, a laborious process that desperately needs databasing. Hits require a team of producers, sample-makers, topliners, programmers, lyricists, melodists, engineers, songwriters, managers, A&Rs, and of course the artists themselves.

All of these team members need to be working on the same page simultaneously. The best producer in the world cannot make a hit alone, unless that person is looking to create the best instrumental (worth noting: 0% of No. 1 hits have been instrumentals in the last 10 years).

When the music, lyrics, and melody come together, it creates something greater than the individual parts. The relationship between the song and the artist is the final piece to the puzzle. This may seem nonsensical, after all, the song is for the artist, right? Yes, but the song does not necessarily belong to the artist until there’s a commitment to it.

In my experience as a music executive, I have dealt with many crazy situations and epic battles over songs. Particularly, when it comes to artists and labels competing over Starrah’s work, most of which I cannot divulge. One story I can share, however, relates to the Maroon 5 hit “What Lovers Do,” which I pitched to the band almost a year before it was selected. During the course of that year, other artists and labels tried to secure the record but we held off. Starrah and I both sensed that the song was meant for Maroon 5 and steered clear of other opportunities for that reason. I was persistent in following up and pushing for that record. The lobbying worked. Maroon 5 took it and it became a multi-platinum hit. It also led to a second successful collaboration with Starrah, “Girls Like You,” which topped the Hot 100 for seven weeks. 

Finding a creative chemistry — and recognizing it when it happens — is one of the most important parts of my job as a manager. I look to facilitate relationships, like connecting Starrah and songwriter/producer Frank Dukes who worked together on Rihanna’s “Needed Me” and then again on Young Thug and Travis Scott’s “Pick Up the Phone.” They teamed up once more on Camila Cabello’s seven-time platinum “Havana” — along with a team of eight other songwriters and co-producers.

Another of my clients, Alex Da Kid, has taken collaboration to the level of a multi-album label commitment over several years with his artist Imagine Dragons, whose “Thunder” lands at No. 20 on the Hitmakers year-end list. The band spent many months working in closed sessions on the album “Origins,” which was exclusively produced by Alex. Even in that situation, other producers like Mattman and Robin and songwriters like Justin Tranter contributed to individual tracks.

Other artists opt to work with different producers, topliners and songwriters on every album cycle.

The key to being a successful connector in the industry is not to set up random studio sessions and cross your fingers that something magical happens. It’s not luck as much as it is smart navigation. I look to create timeless songs through creative collaborations. These creatives should be inspiring each other and the work they create should inspire the world.

Teamwork, good vibes and close collaboration is the magic that allows for hits to happen.

Nick Jarjour is a partner at Maverick Management who represents in-demand writers and producers Alex Da Kid and Starrah. Follow him on Twitter at @NickJarjour and on Instagram

More Music

  • Little Shop of Horrors review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Little Shop of Horrors'

    With its strains of kitschy doo-wop and its sci-fi B-movie inspirations, the quaint 1982 musical “Little Shop of Horrors” hardly seems a thing of modern-day revivalism, even despite its touches of S&M. Yet this year alone, not only is there an Off Broadway production of the blackly comic “Little Shop” featuring Jonathan Groff of Netflix’s [...]

  • BBC's Little Mix Talent Show to

    BBC's Little Mix Talent Show to Be Produced by Management Firm's New Shingle, ModestTV

    The BBC has confirmed its Little Mix talent show, which the pop band’s management firm, Modest!, will produce through a new banner, ModestTV. “Little Mix The Search” will be exec produced by Andrea Hamilton, who has partnered with the management outfit to launch the new operation. Her entertainment show credits include “The Voice” and “Strictly [...]

  • NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 15:

    Midland Turns L.A.'s Dormant Palomino Club Into a Honky-Tonk Brigadoon

    Would it be too much to ask Midland to give up its burgeoning-country-star status and move west to become the humble house band at a newly reopened Palomino club in L.A.? It doesn’t seem a lot to beseech for a good cause, however unlucrative it might be for the group’s fortunes and fame. The famed [...]

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 16:

    Idina Menzel, Bebe Rexha Take the Stage for Justin Tranter's 'Beyond' Benefit Concert

    We’re here, we’re queer and we’re writing your favorite songs was the theme of Beyond, the third annual benefit concert that Justin Tranter and his CAA agent, Jenna Adler, organized to benefit GLAAD at the Sunset Room in Hollywood on Wednesday night (Oct. 16). Beyond a music showcase, its mission is to highlight the annual [...]

  • Taylor SwiftMTV Video Music Awards, Arrivals,

    Vivendi's Third Quarter Results Up Nearly 17%, UMG Still Rising

    Vivendi saw its third quarter revenues increase by 16.7% to €3.97 billion ($4.4 billion) compared with the third quarter of 2018, once again boosted by the growth of Universal Music Group, while Canal Plus Group remained stable. For the first nine months of 2019, Vivendi’s revenues reached €11.3 billion ($12.5 billion), an increase of 14.6% [...]

  • Parliament-Funkadelic and George ClintonIEBA Annual Conference,

    George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Sheila E. to Perform in ‘Grammy Salute’ Airing Friday

    Parliament-Funkadelic stars George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, along with Sheila E. and many others, perform in the “Grammy Salute to Music Legends” airing as part of PBS’ “Great Performances” series Friday night. The show, the fourth annual all-star concert offering a primetime spotlight for the Academy’s 2019 Special Merit Awards recipients, premieres nationwide Friday, Oct. [...]

  • Lola Marsh

    Ping Pong Sets the Beat in Hypnotic, Green Screen-Ambitious Lola Marsh Video (Watch)

    Forrest Gump has nothing on Lola Marsh. The Tel Aviv-based twosome of vocalist Yael Shoshana Cohen and multi-instrumentalist Gil Landau transform into ping pong rivals in the video for “Only for a Moment.” The indie-pop jam combines Cohen’s Lana Del Rey-esque vocals over an upbeat blend of snaps, claps, shakers, and a driving melody courtesy [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content