The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook

Review published on April 28, 2017.

The music industry is a strange beast. Not only is it fickle and flighty, but it has changed dramatically from even twenty years ago. Gone are the A&R men finding that individual with the perfect voice who they can sign and promote with the hope of getting the hits. Now we have a machine that can almost produce hits to order, almost being the key word… There are producers out there who have the ability to write songs that have what they describe as ‘hooks’, those little parts of a track that are so catchy, so addictive, that they stick in your head. These men, and it still is almost exclusively men, are still rare, but that ability to turn a song from one that would have only sold thousands to one that sells millions makes them worth a fortune.

Earworm: a catchy song or tune that runs continually through someone’s mind.

Seabrook has written an interesting book, smearing away some of the gloss and glamour from the music industry, to reveal details of its inner workings. He describes just how these talented individuals pull together a song, finding those hook’s that make people want to listen more and the bridge moment when they divert from the original melody and rhythm and slot something else in. I have known that they manufactured music in the same way that they create groups, for ages, but I didn’t realise quite how strong the Swedish influence was in the global music industry. There were some interesting chapters on how Napster wreaked havoc with the business model of the music industry, how streaming has changed how they operate, how they use topliners and that the only way that a star can now make any money is to be continually touring because of the grip that the music industry has on them. It was an interesting book overall on a global industry that has as many secrets as glitterballs.

Paul Cheney 5/5

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory by John Seabrook
Vintage 9780099590453 pbk Oct 2016

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