How are flat cakes made commercially pure

The pop factoryThis is how hits are made

"What do you think? How do songs get created?" (John Seabrook)

"Well, I don't know anyone who sings, produces and writes everything." (Michelle Leonard)

"Many people are then often puzzled and think: Oh how, she doesn't write her own songs?" (Keshav Purushotham)

"99 out of 100 people who start making music don't realize that you can write songs for others." (Daniel Nitt)

"There were always performers, like Frank Sinatra or something, and great songwriters behind them who were more in the background." (Keshav Purushotham)

"That takes away the illusion when you find out: How does it really happen at the top in the pop industry? That the bands have little influence on what they actually interpret." (Phil)

"I always thought that someone would write the lyrics and someone else would sit down at the piano and create a melody. Then the song would be recorded and produced. I thought: That's how it works. But that's completely wrong." (John Seabrook)

The pop fairy tale of Rihanna

Rihanna did not co-write the song "Umbrella": Others did the job for her. (imago / Landmark Media)

"Umbrella" by Rihanna, somehow this song is annoying. "When the sun is shining, we shine together, if not, come under my umbrella." And then this "ella", "ella", "ella". Heard a thousand times and sung along in your head - without really wanting to. A typical pop song with a lot of hip-hop elements in it. An example of the new type of pop hit. It's not just the sound of pop hits that has changed a lot in the last few decades - the way they are written has also changed. In this Corso special we take a look at today's pop factories. How are hits made? To answer that, we visit what is known as a songwriting camp, look into the history of songwriting and meet some of the most sought-after hit-makers of the moment.

To understand the industry behind the big hits, you have to look at the meaning of individual songs: Rihanna's "Umbrella" changed her career ten years ago. One song. And that despite the fact that their pop fairy tale began in 2003. She still lives in Barbados as Robyn Fenty, 15 years old, her father an alcoholic, her parents divorced. She doesn't play an instrument, has never written a song. But she has a dream. She wants to be a singer on the big stage. And she wants it more than anything else in the world.

Glitter in the eyes

"This longing of the pop stars is what the fans can identify with. And this is exactly what the managers in the publishing houses and labels are looking for, because they cannot simply produce this great desire artificially," writes US journalist John Seabrook in his book " The Song Machine - Inside the Hit Factory ". In it he also reports how Evan Rogers, an A&R, i.e. a label employee who takes care of artists and their repertoire, the songs, meets the young Robyn Fenty while on vacation. He immediately sees that glint in her eyes.

A little later he drags her to labels, including Jay-Z from Def Jam. He too sees that certain something in her eyes. And slowly, Robyn Fenty's rise as Rihanna begins. In 2005 Evan Rogers and his partner Carl Sturken write their "Pon de Replay". But the piece is not a signature song yet, writes Seabrook. So not a hit that stands for Rihanna as a star like no other, who sets the artistic direction and distinguishes her from other singers. It wasn't until two years later that "Umbrella" became Rihanna's signature song.

"Umbrella" changed Rihanna's entire career

The big pop business is about hits and hooks. Rihanna's "Umbrella" changed her entire career: Ten weeks at number one in Great Britain, seven weeks in the USA. A Grammy, two MTV Video Music Awards and other prizes. But how did the song get to her?

John Seabrook: "A lot of hits are written in songwriting camps these days. And they work like this: a music publisher invites composers and producers and puts them in different teams in different studios from ten o'clock in the morning. The artist tends to run from studio to studio, widely a bit of a magical atmosphere, sounds like it's going and maybe contributes something here and there. "

Rihanna did not take part in "Umbrella". Others did the job for them.

Visiting the songwriting camp of the band Wunderwelt

Klaus: "We're at a songwriting camp and new songs are supposed to be created here."

A weekend in Munich. Sepp Music's studio is located in an underground car park near the Isar. Songs are to be written in the two rooms with guitars, keyboards, synthesizers, large boxes and laptops. Before the start, the eleven participants squeeze into a small lounge with a red couch and a small kitchen. Nick, one of the two studio owners, three producers, three songwriters, a manager and his promising four-piece band: Wunderwelt.

The first appearance was a band contest

Klaus: "We haven't been around that long, we have come together, Phil and I originally." In Schwabmünchen, a small town between Munich and Ulm. That's where all the band members come from. "We thought: No, we want to make electronic music now. We bought devices we had no idea about, just started and asked Melissa, she got in. And our first gig was a band contest, where we went straight to the finals, and with the second we rocked the thing and became 'Band of the Year'. That was our first step. "

The second was that one song with the video in which pretty Melissa - blonde, big eyes, great lips - haunts through the night. you Has that certain something - beautiful, a clear and warm voice. "We put a video up and an hour after we put it up the first publisher was on the phone. We couldn't really believe it."

The song "Freiheit ist Gold" sounds contemporary, a bit like Frida Gold. Cheeky, electronic, danceable, in a good mood. That fits, found the music publisher Universal, and organized the songwriting camp for Wunderwelt.

Klaus: "We were asked: Would you have a problem with creating songs here in sessions like this? We were already open and said: Sure. So it has helped us too." The band has already had a few sessions where songs were written for and with them. And first of all had to get used to this procedure: "At first that feels strange for someone who usually does everything himself."

Phil: "The plan is now for the EP that is to come - five tracks come on it ... and today the plan is to write songs, if possible, that go on the EP. And if an album comes out, then maybe on that Album even. That's the plan for today. "

Before it starts, the manager informs the songwriters, producers and the band how the four songs that will be written this weekend should sound like. "For example, more songs forward, they are needed even more, especially for the album later," says Björn, one of the three producers. He also wants to remain anonymous and only gives his first name in front of the microphone. "Here and there a few references that are otherwise not even known. Because: Often the focus is on radio matters, but often not so that everything doesn't sound the same. You have to create something new that doesn't scare people off, that's the difficult thing about pop music "

Just as pop journalist John Seabrook describes it in the US American scene, it doesn't seem to work at the German songwriting camps. But the goal is the same: write a title in one day. Hits like on the assembly line.

The cogs in the pop factory: Keshav, Nitt and RedZone Entertainment

Musician Keshav Purushotham (Deutschlandradio / Ina Plodroch)

Keshav Purushotham is a musician from Cologne. He is the singer of the indie band Timid Tiger and last year released his solo album as Keshavara, with lots of danceable grooves and electronic gadgets. As a songwriter, he has already produced beats for rappers Casper and Haftbefehl. Keshav is also a cog in the pop factory: "The first was a camp, organized by Warner Chapell in the studios of Xavier Naidoo in Mannheim."

These camps have existed for years: "You arrive, meet, everyone comes in. Then you introduce yourself, you realize that there are people from very different areas. Then groups are divided up, then there is a list of songs, That was not just for an artist or a band, but for different things. Then four groups were divided up and then it starts, then it's like in a factory. Then they work and at the end of the day they should be a result will be there. " The whole thing is half secret, half public. "I'm just thinking about whether I should say that, I just remembered."

"These are secret things"

Daniel Nitt at the 7th award of the German Music Author Award 2015 in Berlin (imago / eventfoto54) Keshav's current inquiry: A well-known German singer is looking for songs for her upcoming album. "But I could imagine that I am not allowed to say that. That is quite a bit of negative advertising. Those are secret things, then it is marketed as a separate idea, that's clear." Your publisher would like titles in the style of your well-known hits. But the following influences are also welcome: "Chainsmokers 'Closer', 'Shake it off', Taylor Swift, 'Female Power' is then there. 'No ballads'."

"It works like this: The publishing house, when it is a big one, has many branches all over the world and they pass briefings to each other," that is, the information about which artist is currently looking for songs, says Daniel Nitt. He studied at the Popakademie in Mannheim and today mainly writes for and with Mark Forster. "The US-American offshoot of BMG says: 'The Rihanna', who has already quoted you a lot, 'is looking for new songs. Whoever in the world is up for something: She wants about this and that and that Direction. This is how it could be. ' Then you can send things there that will send them on to America. And if you are very, very lucky, it will actually end up with Rihanna. In real life it is like that that flutters across half the globe in an anonymous way, that comes and goes again, but that's rare. "

Two hours, done

Today Rihanna can choose who writes her songs. This is mainly due to "Umbrella". That this song would be so successful was actually not in sight. According to the research of John Seabrook, it was not created according to a promising scheme F:

"That title is a typical example of how songs are written today. The guys at RedZone Entertainment just played around with a few samples and rhythms from their music program. Then there was the hi-hat. Later another guy stepped in Studio and just played the keyboard. And then there was this third one: He heard it and somehow the word umbrella came into his head. That's how the song came about: totally spontaneous and unplanned. "

"Umbrella" as a YouTube video

Two hours, done. The production team at RedZone Entertainment - Terius "The Dream" Nash, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, Thaddis "Kuk" Harrell - didn't know at the time that a mega-hit had just emerged here. No one knows that immediately, writes Seabrook. US producer Tricky Stewart told him: A hit is a hit. But no one can predict a smash hit like "Umbrella", which is in the top ten in England for ten weeks in a row and in the top ten on the Billboard charts for seven weeks.

"Of course the producers wanted an established star to make the title a hit. This is how you make money as a songwriter. They wanted Mary J. Blidge and Britney Spears as singers. But in 2007 Rihanna wasn't the star she is today But when she and her team heard the song, it was clear to them that this track was going to make them a star, and then they called the producers almost every day to get the title “Umbrella.” It's part of the music business ', which hardly anyone knows, but which is totally important. How did you get the song that makes you a superstar? Rihanna succeeded because she had Jay-Z and other influential people behind her. "

Composing with the smartphone: In the Sepp Music production studio

"You can do something on the drum roll, or something like a snare."

The songwriting camp in Sepp Music's Munich studio is now a good bit further. Half the song is already finished in one of the two studios in which new Wunderwelt titles are being tinkered with at the same time. There is a basic idea of ​​what the text should be about.

Florian: "It's about a woman who doesn't want to be told and wants to enjoy her life."

A similar story, by the way, as in the track "Freiheit ist Gold", the single that the publishers and labels called the band about. "And because your boyfriend slows you down a bit and then gives him your opinion," says Florian, he is co-owner of the Sepp Music studio. His small pop factory works together with the Universal publishing house: "We have a common goal to write a lot of songs and to use them commercially. That's why we are there every week to write something."

Who needs paper or email?

Author: "Can you say who are you writing for?"

Florian: "For God and the world. Well, we'll try everything first. Be it in German or English."

Author: "Where's the problem right now?"

Florian: "We're in the second stanza and we're writing. It's a process."

Studio owner Florian stands in one of the two production rooms. He holds his smartphone in his hand and, together with songwriter Sebastian, taps around on the small screen: delete, add, change sentence fragments - and all over again: "I want blue eyes, dark circles, well, that's not sexy." The two songwriters and producer Björn send each new version to each other in a WhatsApp group. Who needs paper or email?

Florian: "It has to stay charming because it's for a girl, for a guy I would do it exactly the same way.

Author: "Women don't smoke, is that why?"

Florian: "No, but is still a beautiful woman."

Because the woman in pop has a role. She doesn't write songs here, but serves as a projection surface. Florian and his colleague Sebastian are looking for words that describe their idea of ​​a self-confident, independent woman with different images. Not too rough, not too cute.

Sex sells

Sebastian: "A bit of sex appeal should go in."

Florian: "Sex sells."

"Production isn't really in demand at the moment," says Björn, the producer - or the so-called tracker - who is constantly stuck to the computer and very quickly pulls out contemporary beats. Stand in front yourself? D rather not. If you google his full name, you won't find anything about him. Fortunately, he says. He wants to remain anonymous and prefer to get lost in the crowd.

Björn has been in the songwriting business for a year and has written a good 100 songs: "No, no, not all of them published, just songs from sessions, so to speak. It's only a fraction of what is written. I would say: 70 percent of everything always goes to the trash. " The better-known musicians who sing to his beats include pop star Micky Krause and the winner of the casting show "Deutschland sucht den Superstar" Piedro with his Sarah. "Honestly, especially if you are involved yourself: Every song grows dear to you, even if it's Micky Krause. I like everything very much, I'm not put off by any genre."

Song ideas are simply typed into the smartphone: In the production studio of Sepp Music (Deutschlandradio / Ina Plodroch)

Sebastian: "Do you want to do another drum roll?" The musicians from Wunderwelt come from another studio.

Florian: "Let's see if they take it all that way. It could be: I don't like the line, I don't like the melody or I don't like the whole statement."

Björn: "So the basic idea, first of all very briefly, sounds very stupid from the chords: Who is the pussy here?"

Klaus: "Great."

WhatsApp instead of sheet music

Bassist Phil and keyboard and synthesizer player Klaus from Wunderwelt think the song with the working title "Pussy" is great. But singer Melissa has not heard it yet. She has to perform it on stage later. If she doesn't like it at all, maybe it was all for nothing. Songwriter Florian recorded the melody with his smartphone and played it to Klaus and Phil from the band.

Björn: "We only accepted each other into the WhatsApp group so that we could all have it on our cell phones, just in case we forget the melody. The way it was now." Pop songs like this are not written down on sheet music as they used to be. Nowadays, ideas for the melody are quickly hummed into the mobile phone, shared with others for coordination via Whatsapp and later simply produced directly in the studio. Björn's colleague Florian is the topliner. That is: "Quasi the song melody. There are people who only topline, they write the song melody, verse."

The topline is also called a hook."Which often makes up the whole song. A good topline is very, very important. Hook is simply the chorus. That has to be the catch where you say: Got you!"

"The Hook is everything!"

John Seabrook: "Many of these songs are not about anything special. Rather, as many musical ideas and hooks as possible are packed into a single piece. A song is, so to speak, a best-of of several songs."

What a good hookline is can be heard especially on Rihanna's track "Rude Boy," says Seabrook. It's a song that is basically just hooks. The productions of the 21st century try to stand out from the saturated media world: "Attention is a rare commodity. Television, radio, the Internet - they all vie for our attention with images, words. And pop music does this with hooks. Our brain notices the second or third hearing how the melody goes, and then we want to hear the piece again. It's almost as if such a pop song speaks to the subconscious in order to get attention. "

Standard recipe: the track’n’hook process

Although the hook is at the center, it rarely arises first, says John Seabrook. "Everything starts with the production, so the electronic track. It is more or less the instrument and is generated on the computer. There are no musicians in the room. I've never seen a musician on an instrument."

He calls it the track'n'hook process. First comes the electronic track and then the melody or the hook: "The topliners go into the studio, listen to the previously produced electronic track and then they develop a hook, a little melody or something Text. All of this is sent to the artist who has not yet contributed anything to this song because he may be on tour anyway - because musicians mainly earn their money on tours these days. And in the end a Rihanna takes in a mobile studio on her tour bus - at three o'clock in the morning in a parking lot that smells of piss. "

Michelle Leonard at the 9th award of the German Music Author Award 2017 in Berlin (imago / Future Image)

How much input from a topliner is in such a Rihanna song can be found on the net. There you can find the demo version of Ester Dean. She invented the topline for "Rude Boy". In direct comparison, she sounds almost like Rihanna herself.

This track’n’hook method is standard in the US pop business and its songwriting capital, Los Angeles. "I'm just coming from L.A., in a big studio where I was, and there was almost the same beat from all the studios," says Michelle Leonard. She has been a songwriter for years, and she wanted to be that when she was 13. She is one of the few women in the field. "Those are beats, especially if you look at the radio landscape in LA, which are very, very track-driven. That means: it's about beats. It's about dopest sounds. Yes, they are real sound nerds. Drake and whatever they are called . They are real engineers. Meanwhile, that is a completely different sketch of the words. They are used more as a rhythm instrument. "

In German-speaking pop, successful artists such as Tim Bendzko, Andreas Bourani and Frida Gold sing pathetically about love and life and supposedly put the lyrics in the foreground. One of the few exceptions: the Austrian band Bilderbuch. She no longer pretends to tell a story - and does it like the Americans.

The casual way in which singer Maurice Ernst uses cumbersome terms like Strom and Lader in the song "Bungalow" shows exactly what Michelle means: the words are mere rhythm. And what the band is singing about - who cares? A principle established by a man who shaped western pop music like no other. And still hardly anyone knows.

Great role model: picture book

Sebastian: "We really have to be careful not to slip into this picture book thing."

Björn and Florian continue to work on the tough electro track "Pussy" for Wunderwelt. And next door, in the second recording room, it starts all over again.

Klaus: "So, where could we go? Do we want to start with this 'Papa said' 'story, everyone has an effect on you from the outside, you finish school. Maybe really in the main statement like this:' I am a punk '. "

Singer Melissa and Klaus sit in a circle of chairs in the studio with songwriter Sebastian and producer Michael. Behind them guitars, drums and laptops. First of all, they look for a topic together.

Great role models: The Austrian band Bilderbuch at the Berlinale 2017 in Berlin. (Britta Pedersen / dpa)

Sebastian: "It's a bit too clumsy for me at the moment, but you are the bosses. You have to tell us where to go. Sprite, Coke in the fridge - maybe we will use brand names. Personally, I feel like a different rhythm to go is usually that disco thing. " Sebastian still has a beat on his computer that you can use: "We can also make fun of the renaming from 'Capri Sonne' to 'Capri Sun'. It's very picture-perfect, but good."

Klaus: "That's right."

Author: "Now is the challenge: You think picture books are cool, but of course you can't sound like that?"

Klaus: "Exactly, picture book is very cool."

Sebastian: "If you try too hard to imitate it, it quickly becomes embarrassing, they have been doing it for ten years and are very good at this absurd text thing."

Little by little the song emerges. What came first - melody, text, the electronic track? Hard to say.

Sebastian: "I don't know either. Grill my body? Such a bullshit."

The forefathers of modern pop: Max Martin and Denniz PoP

There is one songwriter who has shaped pop more than probably anyone else. And who established the bullshit of listening to the sound of the words rather than the meaning. Max Martin.

In the early 1990s his name was still Martin Sandbergh. He was born in Uppland, Sweden. His father is a policeman, his mother a teacher. At the age of 20, Max Martin wore long hair and is the singer of a metal band. But he has a passion that he cannot share with his bandmates: pop music. With lyrics that don't make sense, but with beats that stick in your ear, he becomes one of the most sought-after and successful songwriters in the world.

The beginning of the Cheiron beat

Britney Spears - Max Martin Makes Her Famous (AP Archive) John Seabrook: "He mixes words with the melody so that it fits perfectly. The best example is arguably his first number one song 'Hit me Baby (One More Time) 'by Britney Spears. The line is just bullshit, it should read: hit me up one more time. When the song came out, nobody knew what that meant. But that didn't matter. It made it even more attractive as a hit. " His principle has prevailed in the songwriting capital L.A.

The story of Max Martin is typical of many great songwriters: Denniz PoP, a Swedish DJ, discovered songwriting in the early 1990s and started producing for himself. He put his own new stamp on the pop of the time.

John Seabrook: "That was the beginning of electronic music that sounded as if it had been played with instruments and took up reggae elements. It was very different from the electronic music of the 80s. And it was specially produced : Denniz leaves PoP out rather than adding sound elements. That was the beginning of the so-called Cheiron Beat. "

Named after Cheiron Studios, which Denniz Pop founded in Stockholm and where, among other things, he wrote the first number one hits for the Swedish pop band Ace of Base. Denniz Pop is looking for more songwriters and meets Max Martin - they form a team, and their Cheiron beat will influence mainstream pop for the next few years. Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Westlife, Britney Spears are in line.

John Seabrook: "All these bands had that special beat. The Cheiron beat shaped international pop for almost ten years - with the typical snare drum, the hi-hat. It was music for people who didn't like rock and grunge from Nirvana and remembered the good old days of Abba much more. "

Denniz PoP dies of cancer

When the two Swedes had the pop world firmly under control for several years, Denniz PoP suddenly fell ill. He dies of cancer in 1997. Max Martin takes over the management of Cheiron Studios. In 2000 he decided to close the studio in Stockholm. On the homepage Martin writes that they would rather stop now, when they are still successful. It is probably the right moment, because it is precisely at this time that, with protagonists like Pharrell Williams, a mainstream sound is emerging that is more influenced by hip-hop and R’n’B.

It almost seems as if Max Martin would fare like many successful songwriters: They are six or seven years successful until the next big trend is borne by new, younger producers. Fortunately, however, his paths cross with the US singer Kelly Clarkson. Max Martin writes the song "Since U been gone" for her - and in 2004 is back at the front. The title reached number two on the US charts. Clarkson wins the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Max Martin is the gray eminence of chart pop. He knows his place as a songwriter, says US journalist John Seabrook. Shining on stage and lovingly wrapping thousands of fans around their fingers, as Kelly Clarkson does - not everyone can do that. Max Martin therefore stays in the background and gives almost no interviews. The artists stand in line for him: He writes for and with Kelis, James Blunt, Leona Lewis, Usher, Pink, Robyn, Avril Lavigne, Nicki Minaj, Maroon 5, Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Pitbull, Adele, Ariana Grande , Flo Rida, Selena Gomez and Katy Perry.

Taylor Swift: Shake It Off as a YouTube video

An imposing list that Max Martin has filled since the late 1990s. But what does it mean for pop music when a man has shaped the sound for so many years? Many of his pieces actually sound like the dictionary entry for the typical pop song - far too high-pitched female voices, far too catchy. But does that make Adele sound like Taylor Swift? As interchangeable and uniform as the big pop hits may be, there are sound worlds between Adele and Taylor Swift - one more puristic, the other more pompous. A songwriter like Max Martin knows what suits certain artists. He seems to be fine-tuning the artist's identity with them. There is only one thing that Max Martin has not yet written to: Rihanna.

A twist for wonder world

In the Sepp Music production studios in Munich, the songwriters Sebastian, Florian and producer Björn are waiting for feedback from the manager - who wants to remain anonymous. Although the participants of the camp always emphasize that in the end the band Wunderwelt decides which songs are good and should be featured on the EP, it sometimes seems as if the manager is the actual decision maker. He is actually also a songwriter and it was only by chance that he started managing the newcomer band Wunderwelt.

While the doors of the studios are closed, he sits in a small lounge on a red leather couch. With the laptop on his lap and the wool blanket over his legs, he clicks through Youtube, looks for the videos with millions of views - and wonders: he wrote such a song six years ago? A quick search in his own library and then he presents it: a song he wrote for Helene Fischer - but of course it mustn't be heard on the radio now. It's not even clear yet whether it will be used.

Then close the laptop, open the studio door, and listen to how far the production of the Wunderwelt songs has progressed.

In the studio of Sepp Music (Deutschlandradio / Ina Plodroch)

Manager: "I miss the harmonious twist in the chorus."

The manager and songwriter adds his twist to the chorus. His small changes improve the title. It seems strange when so many different composers and producers change the song - but in this case it makes the piece more appealing. After all, very few stars are as talented as Lenny Kravitz or Prince, who did everything completely on their own.

Author: "Would you appear in the credits now because you lent a hand?"

Fabian: "Difficult question, usually not."

Björn: "Of course."

Credits mean money

Credits means: Who appears in the composer line and receives a share of the royalties? Rihanna's title "Work" has seven names on the credit line. When Rihanna became a world star with "Umbrella" ten years ago, she was not yet on the song list as a composer. It's different with their later hit "Work":

John Seabrook: "Rihanna herself is in the credits because she has more power now. There's an old saying in the songwriting business: 'Change a word and you'll get a third of the royalty.' This is how artists proceed who also want some of the cake, because the credits are where the money is. In the past, when people still bought CDs, there was also a lot of money to be made with the actual recording. In the age of music streaming, it works more about being involved in the publication and making money with it. But whether Rihanna really co-wrote "Work"? I don't know. "

The genre - almost irrelevant

In contrast to the USA, the list of composers involved in Germany is usually not that long. One of the exceptions is the song "80 million" by Max Giesinger. Martin Fliegenschmidt's name is among the four listed composers of the piece. He has his own band parka. But Fliegenschmidt has also been writing songs for other artists for several years. He is one of not that many in Germany: "The bubble of German songwriters in the field of pop - in the broadest sense of pop - it can range from something jazzy, with a soulful touch to rock, urban or hip-hop .... this bubble of songwriters is not that big in Germany. So from those who really do a lot. They don't know, maybe 50 or so. But most of them know each other. "

Songwriter Martin Fliegenschmidt in his studio (Deutschlandradio / Ina Plodroch)

The genre - almost irrelevant. Songwriters like Martin Fliegenschmidt are flexible and can adapt to the artistic style of Max Giesinger, Wincent Weiss or Joy Denalane. A young musician who plays in a German indie band that had a little hype last year provides chart pop, dance pop and even hits for other artists. Everything under a pseudonym, he writes in an email request. He'd rather not give an interview. After all, he doesn't want to be stamped as the new Ralph Siegel, but rather to retain his credibility as an artist in an indie band.

Because it actually seems a bit arbitrary that songwriters simply serve so many different genres. Keshav also says: "I've already written music for very bad youth films with the Ochsenknecht sons, it really meant - not literally - but it should sound like Linkin 'Park. But not that good. And then I did done because I needed money, so I chose a pseudonym. Because that would have been a bit uncomfortable for me. " Who wants to go down in history as the composer of a cheap Linkin’ Park copy?

Indie music is still an alternative to the pop factory, where an artist is supported by other songwriters or just sings the songs that others put in front of him. Artists like Bilderbuch and Keshav write their songs on their own. Or cologne tape.

The opposite model: improvising with Cologne Tape like in the Krautrock times

Jens-Uwe Beyer, part of the music collective (Andi Hörmann) From the recording rooms in Munich we go to Cologne. In addition to the mainstream dance disco "Bootshaus" at Mülheim harbor, Jens-Uwe Bayer and Daniel Ansorge alias Barnt - two producers and DJs from electronic dance music - work. Usually they produce their tracks on their own on the computer. But with the musician collective Cologne Tape they go completely different ways: The recordings for the new Cologne Tape record are made in a classic jam session:

Author: "How did you start?"

Barnt: "You are happy that you find an appointment, you go to the studio and then you actually sit down and everyone picks out an instrument."

No goal in sight

With seven other musicians - including Philipp Janzen from the Cologne band Von Spar, John Stanier from the US group Battles and Michaela Dippel, who produces electronic music as Ada - they form a kind of supergroup.

Barnt: "Just like now. Jens-Uwe is already starting and playing the guitar. If there were nine of us - there are only two of us now - then someone would probably start playing the piano right away. I play a little now Synthesizer for whatever comes to mind. This Steinway and vibraphone. "

You improvise. For four days. It's basically not that different from a songwriting camp, they also hid in a studio and just started playing. And improvised.But the main difference is that they have no goal in mind and don't try to squeeze as many hooks as possible into a song. That actually makes some pop songs exciting and exciting - but also exhausting. The eight tracks on her album "Welt", which was released at the end of March 2017, sound partly like Krautrock from the 70s, compared to a Rihanna song: lengthy. Brand: Conny Plank. An LSD hippie dream that keeps turning repetitively without changing much - that's exactly what makes it attractive, as a counterpoint to the fast-paced world.

"That won't make it into the charts"

Barnt: "Time can stretch incredibly long at these meetings, and if you listen to the whole thing with a bum, then it all sounds way too long. Our album ... they sound too long for pop composers. They would say, “Oh, that's eight minutes. That doesn't make it into the charts.” At the end of the day it sounds short to us because it used to be 30 minutes long, and then we have to decide how we can end these 30 minutes Condense eight minutes because: eight minutes is ok. But we don't want to go to three minutes. "

Jens-Uwe Bayer and Barnt have nothing against great pop, they say. However, your own approach still seems like a deliberate concept against polished mainstream fast food chart hits by Max Martin. Music that evades the rules of the music market, puts the zeitgeist behind and in which artistic ideas are in the foreground.

The question of authenticity

In contrast to the studio of the supergroup Cologne Tape, Sepp Music in Munich constantly considers the commercial success of the new Wunderwelt songs when composing instantly this weekend.

Melissa: "But I sing about a woman, don't I? Not about myself like in 'Freedom is gold'."

Björn: "No, you are the woman herself."

Melissa. "Great."

Melissa, the singer from Wunderwelt, doesn't seem quite as enthusiastic yet. Is it legitimate to ask who is actually the pussy here? Or is this question simply obsolete?

Melissa: "Then you only play one role. You don't have to relate it to yourself right away. Of course it's nice if you can identify with it, it's nice because you can sell it better. Otherwise you have to act. "

Independent or externally determined?

The band does not yet know whether the pussy song will end up on their EP or even on the album. She can't decide it on her own either, managers and labels get involved - but don't dictate a path for them, hopes the keyboardist, Klaus: "Our focus is on our own music, I couldn't be an artist who gets completely prescribed songs he has to interpret. I couldn't reconcile that with my conscience. "

It's not just the artists who want to stand behind the music they make. The fans have always asked themselves: How authentic is the music? Are the artists and their works a unit? The claim to authenticity sticks to pop like old chewing gum that hasn't tasted good for a long time.

A little history of the Manufactured Artists

"You Keep Me Hanging On" by the Surpremes from 1966: The Motown Trio's first number one and a classic example of foreign-written music. Many pieces of the Supremes come from Holland-Dozier-Holland - the Motown's team of songwriters and producers. The label symbolizes the assembly line production of world hits - and the trio Brian and Edward Holland and Lamont Herbert Dozier are its engine.

The fact that the Supremes don't write their own songs apparently didn't bother anyone. Because: "In the 1950s there were an enormous number of manufactured artists, that is, musicians made by the music world. But nobody was interested, there was nothing else," says pop journalist John Seabrook.

Dylan turned the game around

Attitudes changed in the 60s and 70s with the singer / songwriters becoming increasingly popular. "Dylan was one of the first in the business to write his own songs. The Beatles can still be mentioned, Chuck Berry in the 50s," explains musicologist Ralf von Appen. He explores the role of authenticity in pop music. "But from the moment Dylan and the Beatles came along, there was no turning back. For rock as a counterculture, it was absolutely crucial that people write their own songs. Suddenly there was everyone who didn't do that , boring pop establishment for parents and no longer part of youth culture. "

The musician Bob Dylan (imago / United Archives International)

Today's pop factories hold on to this ostensible promise of authenticity made by pop - even if it only appears to the audience as an illusion.

John Seabrook: "Most people would say that a song is more moving when the singer wrote it himself. It just goes down better with the fans. Because this singer / songwriter concept is so marketable, the labels want them Fans continue to believe that the big stars write their own songs - although these days they rarely do it alone. "

That is why labels and publishers often do not hang up these songwriting camps and sessions - which is what made Jan Böhmermann talk about German industrial music:

Jan Böhmermann: "The new German pop poets, they write profound lyrics, they have it all. You can hear immediately: There are unique artists behind them, real singer / songwriters, no chimpanzees from the Gelsenkirchen Zoo, or anything like that. Hey, and Max Giesinger! I've listened to all of your songs carefully: rightly so, you're proud of your real authorship! "

Max Giesinger: "It's something for me that is important, that there are really personal stories. I could never have someone else write a record or something ..."

Moderator: "You write all this yourself?"

Max Giesinger: "Yes, yes."

Moderator: "All alone?"

Max Giesinger: "I have a buddy with whom I do this together."

Jan Böhmermann: "Sure. Every German poet writes his songs alone with a buddy, only one buddy still writes. For example here: '80 million ', Max Giesinger's biggest hit so far. Here, this is the album, Max Giesinger, great album. Who wrote '80 million '? Let's see. There! Max Giesinger, composer and lyricist, and who else is he? Oh, here, oh, look, there's still ... "

Marketing prefers to leave unmentioned that Martin Fliegenschmidt, David Juergens and Alexander Zuckowski wrote "80 million" together with Max Giesinger.

Jan Böhmermann: "It's not that bad, the most important thing is that these are all good songwriting buddies of Max who work exclusively for Max. Or who else do they write for?"

The consequences: popular music often sounds the same

Today's pop factories show that the big music labels and publishers rely more than ever on the creative input of songwriters. Division of labor is the keyword: one person tinkers the beat, another delivers the topline, another composer writes the hooklines. This teamwork has the potential to create very detailed songs with lots of hooks, different sounds and musical ideas.

When a track becomes a number one hit, when producers like Max Martin create a new style, further songwriting camps are organized to write a similar piece - the result is not always as good as the original. That is the downside: the camps of the big publishers are partly responsible for the fact that popular music so often sounds the same.

On the other hand: If you leave aside the eternal question about the authenticity claim in pop, maybe nothing speaks against it if musicians don't do everything themselves. In the digital age, when so much is being remixed, world stars like Taylor Swift or Rihanna are more like curators. This is also shown by the new album by Canadian rapper Drake: "More Life" is what he calls a "playlist". He collaborates with experienced songwriters, managers and his label and curates the sound of the hour. With songs that he could hardly have produced on his own. Teamwork in writing rooms is an important success factor in TV series. So why shouldn't it also be in pop?

And maybe the secrecy will soon be over for songwriters. Julia Michaels, for example, has written pieces for Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez for the past three years. With her title "Issues" she appears herself for the first time. And her label openly advertises that she writes songs for other artists.

On the last day of production in the Sepp Music studio, singer Melissa is still struggling with the lyrics of the "Pussy" song.

Sebastian: "Yes - and therefore: try it out, sleep on it."

"This is how hits are made" - that was our insight into the pop factory, by and with Ina Plodroch. Oliver Dannert was in technology. The editor was Adalbert Siniawski. Thanks for your interest. Goodbye, take care!