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Kara DioGuardi Has Words for the Music Business About Songwriting, TikTok Fame and Disruption From the Inside Out

On this week's episode of Variety's "Strictly Business" podcast, the former "American Idol" judge also talks about her latest discovery, GAYLE, whose "abcdefu" is a No. 1 radio hit.

Kara DioGuardi
Rachael Deeb

“Care is a weird word in the music industry,” says Kara DioGuardi, who, in addition to being a Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer, also runs her own music publishing house and record label, Arthouse Entertainment. As a former artist herself, she’s seen the business from all sides, and as an advocate for creators, she’s incensed that streaming giants like Spotify are under-compensating songwriters. “They care a little less about the songwriter?” she says incredulously on the March 2 episode of Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast. “What we really need to have is a mutual respect, because if you want creators to continue to deliver for you, there needs to be a level of respect. And there is no respect when you’re not paying your songwriters.”

DioGuardi has written a few smashes herself. Maybe you’ve heard of “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani, “Ain’t No Other Man” by Christina Aguilera, “Sober” by Pink or “Want You to Want Me” by Jason Derulo? According to Arthouse, DioGuardi’s songs have appeared on albums totaling 160 million in sales.

She’s a seasoned talent scout, too, with an impressive track record of having identified, and invested in, hit songs early on. Arthouse has equity in tunes by Bruno Mars, Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Maroon 5, Justin Bieber, Halsey, Eminem and Florida Georgia Line, among many others. It also boasts a current No. 1 on Pop radio with the inescapable “ABCDEFU” by GAYLE, who’s signed to Atlantic via a partnership with Arthouse.

DioGuardi stopped writing songs not long after her career took a turn in 2009 when she was hired to be a judge on “American Idol” alongside original TV trio Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul. Then on Fox, “Idol” was a ratings monster, but was starting to show some growing pains and DioGuardi, not knowing much about the show, admittedly stepped onto a stage she wasn’t entirely prepared for — even if she did strut across it in a bikini, live with 20 million people watching in 2010.

She talks about these experiences, being a woman and an entrepreneur in a male-dominated field, her advocacy for songwriters, her non-profit, Inspired Nation, which hosts singing competitions benefitting youth-focused charities, and her views on the relationship between technology and music creation, which she’s tackling head-on in a new app called Bridge which connects creators to create collaborators.

Listen below or wherever you get your podcasts.