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The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


“An utterly satisfying examination of the business of popular music.” —Nathaniel Rich, The Atlantic

Over the last two decades a new type of hit song has emerged, one that is almost inescapably catchy. Pop songs have always had a "hook," but today’s songs bristle with them: a hook every seven seconds is the rule. Painstakingly crafted to tweak the brain's delight in melody, rhythm, and repetition, these songs are highly processed products. Like snack-food engineers, modern songwriters have discovered the musical "bliss point." And just like junk food, the bliss point leaves you wanting more.

In The Song Machine, longtime New Yorker staff writer John Seabrook tells the story of the massive cultural upheaval that produced these new, super-strength hits. Seabrook takes us into a strange and surprising world, full of unexpected and vivid characters, as he traces the growth of this new approach to hit-making from its obscure origins in early 1990s Sweden to its dominance of today's Billboard charts.

Journeying from New York to Los Angeles, Stockholm to Korea, Seabrook visits specialized teams composing songs in digital labs with new "track-and-hook" techniques. The stories of artists like Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Rihanna, as well as expert songsmiths like Max Martin, Stargate, Ester Dean, and Dr. Luke, The Song Machine shows what life is like in an industry that has been catastrophically disrupted—spurring innovation, competition, intense greed, and seductive new products.

Going beyond music to discuss money, business, marketing, and technology, The Song Machine explores what the new hits may be doing to our brains and listening habits, especially as services like Spotify and Apple Music use streaming data to gather music into new genres invented by algorithms based on listener behavior.

Fascinating, revelatory, and original, The Song Machine will change the way you listen to music.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 10, 2015 – Traveling from Sweden and South Korea to Los Angeles and New York for interviews with a wide array of songwriters, producers, and artists, New Yorker writer Seabrook tunefully delivers a soulful refrain on the multilayered process of building hit songs today. He profiles Soo-Man Lee, founder of SM Entertainment and architect of K-pop, who created a manual detailing steps necessary to establish a winning artist: which chord progressions to use in songs, which camera angles for videos, and when to import foreign producers or choreographers. Denniz Pop's vision of making the hits involves using a factory of Swedish songwriters who would create hits for British and American acts, combining the beat-driven music people danced to in clubs with the pop music people listened to on the radio. Seabrook also profiles Lou Pearlman, who engineered the Backstreet Boys and mismanaged their careers, and Britney Spears and Rhianna, examining the formulas for their pop successes. Seabrook almost giddily explores the ways that hit songs hook the listener when the "rhythm, sound, melody, and harmony converge to create a single ecstatic moment, felt more in the body than in the head."

Customer Reviews

The Hit Maschine

Basically this book is incredibly revealing in how he music industry operates in the present and continued to blow my mind the further I read as the truth was revealed to me

Pop music demystified

Mr. Seabrook lifted the curtain and showed me the man pulling the levers behind the soundtrack to my childhood. As a 2000s era teen I was riveted by the boy band stories. Without divulging any spoilers, what made this book read like an enriching guilty pleasure was the common thread Mr. Seabrook wove through the history of hits. Seabrook is thorough, thought-provoking, and talented. Well done sir.

Fairly up to date

This book is fairly up to date with current practices in the music industry, songwriting, music celebrities, industry tensions brought about by technology.

After reading this I deceided I need to read books more often.

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory
View in iTunes
  • $12.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Music
  • Published: Oct 05, 2015
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Seller: W. W. Norton
  • Print Length: 288 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings

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