Image by Suede Jury

By Carter Maness

The leap from being a songwriter to pop artist usually results in a cataclysmic fall. For every Sia, Missy Elliott, or Bruno Mars, there are hundreds of contemporary songwriters whose dreams of stardom die on the vine.

They show up in New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville and find something other than the spotlight: a real, honest-to-god career. Nearly a million songwriters are registered with royalty-collecting agencies like BMI and ASCAP, but there are maybe a few dozen bankable pop acts at a given moment. It’s an insanely competitive world.

In 2016, music culture is schizophrenic. Surprise releases are subjected to a 24-hour news cycle. Huge albums get about a week to shine before fading into streaming discographies. A new artist has a short window to leave a mark, then they must immediately evolve. The next step often never comes.

Here lies the value of a great songwriter: the consistent ability to switch styles, to follow trends yet subvert them, to know, deep down, there’s a formula behind great pop music, and no matter how a song gets dressed up, the themes and emotions which bind us don’t change all that much.

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