When it comes to making hits, BIG hits, superstar artists have all the advantages.
They have access to the greatest and most expensive songwriters, hired guns like Max Martin, and the ability to populate the most popular playlists online and off. They make hits, because they can pay for those hits and rocket launch them into stratospheric awareness.
This is a process that is well understood, well documented, and constantly refined by the biggest labels. By why are superstar artists and major labels the only ones with such privileged access to great creativity? Welcome to an overhaul in the science of making hits, one that could revolutionize the songwriting process in just a few years.
We’re already seeing a flood of companies addressing the musical needs of advertisers, movie studios, YouTube authors, and emerging filmmakers. They all need music, and they can’t afford to pay for Hans Zimmer or license a Stones track. That has opened up a lucrative market opportunity, with players like Pump Audio (acquired by Getty for $42 million), Rumblefish (acquired by SESAC for approximately $27 million), and more recent entrants like Musicbed grabbing a piece.
But that still leaves the people who are building songs from scratch, a market that could be substantial. Welcome to another collaboration front online, with Rocket Songs one company trying to address this area. Basically, Rocket Song’s model focuses on selecting the best songwriters and producers, and filtering and curating the best lyrics and instrumentals. That includes songwriters that have written or contributed to songs performed by Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, and Keith Urban, all of whom have material on this platform (at a drastically lower price). The result is a collection of high-end puzzle pieces online, which forms the basis for a potentially big track.
The goal from Rocket Songs’ perspective is that younger or emerging songwriters can now access that pool of creativity, without needing huge amounts of cash or representation by a massive label or publisher. The same goes for lots of labels and production houses who are interested in building good catalogs at a lower cost.
There are lots of different use cases here, because every songwriting and production process is different depending on the skills and creativity present. In one situation, a songwriter or label may need someone who can write lyrics, or conversely, a lyricist may need someone that can build the music (not everyone is a Bernie and Elton team). At a company level, a label may need great music to match a talented singer, or, simply provide the missing pieces for a songwriting team. Those are all scenarios that are being addressed by Rocket Songs, and time will tell which situations resonate the strongest.
Depending on the license, users can pick out instrumentals, lyrics, riffs, or whatever element they want, and exploit them accordingly. Currently, Rocket Songs, now a DMN partner, has about 2,000 tracks from a selected stable of songwriters and producers, a figure that is set to greatly expand in the coming months.
For songwriters and producers, the key is finding a musical puzzle piece that closely matches your musical personality, creative vision, and genre. Rocket Songs is betting that you’ll be able to make this match a lot quicker, simply because they’ve done the pre-selecting and curation for you. So, think of Tinder with only great-looking people with winning personalities that match your idea of a perfect hook-up (or uh, long-term relationship), and you get the idea.
Once that matching process is complete, it’s on to licensing. There are four different licenses you can choose from, depending on what the level of access the owner authorizes: Standard License, Expanded License, Exclusive License, and Master Use License. Each offers successively broader access to things like core recording elements (or stems), with exclusivity as a protection guarantee.
Basically, if you want the greatest level of freedom and exclusive usage, the Master Use License makes the most sense (though the pricing level will be higher). If you need a quick, non-exclusive or limited use of a component, the Standard License saves you a lot of money. But overall, the whole idea behind Rocket Songs is to dramatically reduce the costs involved acquiring hit-ready material (think about a discount from the millions to the thousands and you got the model).
Beyond that, the exciting experiment is whether all of these well-chosen elements can combine with the necessary alchemy to produce a newer generation of hits. Time will tell, though ultimately, charting songs will help to validate the model.