You need to sound like the Chainsmokers
By Dave Kosciolek
I had many reasons to be nostalgic this past month, most of them personal, but the month culminated with us doing an interview with Glen Phillips, the singer, songwriter, and guitarist for 90’s band Toad the Wet Sprocket. That band had many radio hits throughout that decade, with the biggest likely being All I Want in 1992. That song was the #53 best selling song that year according to Billboard Magazine.
I’ve always been a numbers and stats guy, and I’ve been guilty lately of telling people how much recorded music has changed over the past 25 years. But has it really?
One of the biggest changes that stood out is something I had written about before – the increase in the number of collaborations. In 1992 there were 4 songs collaborated on out of the Top 50. In 2017, there were 23. That is significant. I see collaboration as a way to reach multiple audiences, in a time where there are just too many choices and avenues to hear new music. Rap and hip-hop dominate more in 2017, but the Top 3 songs in 1992 were by Boyz II Men, Sir Mix-a-Lot, and Kris Kross. When I look at the number of “pop” songs in the top 50, both years have pretty much the same large number (almost half).
What does all this mean? I think it means if you are making pop (or rock) music in 2018, you need to sound like the Chainsmokers. That is not a knock on the Chainsmokers (who had the #5, 7, and 42 biggest songs of 2017). Their songs are all well-produced w/great hooks even if they all sound similar. They (them and their producers) found the formula to a commercially successful sound. So successful, that the #5 song is a collab w/Coldplay. Coldplay used to be rock, now they need to sound like the Chainsmokers. Maroon 5 used to be rock. Imagine Dragons used to be alternative rock, sort of. Now, they all sound like the Chainsmokers. Harry Styles (from One Direction) released a pretty good song called Sign of the Times in 2017 that should have probably gotten Grammy consideration and ended up only #87 on the year. Why the slight? It doesn’t sound like the Chainsmokers. Musicians – the next move is yours.