There was a very interesting article in billboard recently about solo songwriters. They are a dying breed. Today’s hits are almost exclusively penned by a team of songwriters.
This trend will have an interesting impact on music. Some of the greatest songs of all time were penned by solo songwriters. Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Woody Guthrie and Billie Joel are some of the greatest songwriters ever who wrote alone. Solo songwriters are able to write great songs because they are able to write entirely from personal experience which is often more intimate and personal.
When you write in a group the ideas are more scattered because it’s harder to write one unified story. On the other hand, group writing allows for more complex ideas. The group also benefits from the ability for people to specialize in what they do best. A great lyricist can pair up with a great melody writer etc. This is a clear example of the economic law of comparative advantage. This trend means that we will continue to produce less intimate but more sophisticated songs from a production standpoint.
The death of the solo songwriter also presents a new challenge for publishing companies. Successful publishing companies today will have to think like the general manager of a sports team. They can’t only look at how skilled the players are but they also need to evaluate the chemistry that each player will have with the rest of the team. Since songwriting today is about working in groups, it will be key for publishers to not only identify talent but to serve as matchmakers
Like the song in fiddler on the roof – Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match!