What Do Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Troye Sivan & Taylor Swift All Have In Common? Oscar Görres

Oscar Görres


Photo courtesy of Oscar Görres


What Do Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Troye Sivan & Taylor Swift All Have In Common? Oscar Görres

The Swedish producer, songwriter and Max Martin protégé opens up in his first-ever interview about helping craft hits for your favorite pop stars

GRAMMYs/Aug 29, 2020 - 05:40 pm

It’s late afternoon in Stockholm, but the songwriter and producer Oscar Görres is as animated as a fresh cup of coffee. Gesticulating to get his points across and making faces more colorful than the rust-colored studio walls that surround him, the 34-year-old Swedish star is flanked on all sides by guitars, keyboards, synthesizers and a couch—the very same couch that’s been graced by the likes of Troye Sivan, Allie X, Sabrina Carpenter and more artists looking to inject their songs with Görres’ trademark blend of magnetic pop magic and left-of-center touches. Though he’s worked professionally behind the scenes for 15 years now, Görres has spent much of the last six years steadily making notches in his pop music belt, including credits with Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Maroon 5, P!nk, and later this month, Katy Perry on her just-released sixth studio album, Smile.

Chalk up some of Görres’ recent career glow-up to a cosign from the godfather of modern pop, Max Martin, who (with Shellback) scouted the young producer and songwriter early in his career and invited him to join a collective known as Wolf Cousins, whose members also include Tove Lo, Peter Svensson (of The Cardigans fame), and Ali Payami. It’s almost too easy to quantify the success of Wolf Cousins' nine songwriters and producers properly. But listing some of their recent hits comes closest to giving you a sense of their combined clout: The Weeknd's "Can’t Feel My Face"; Ariana Grande’s "Love Me Harder"; Taylor Swift’s "Shake It Off"; Demi Lovato’s "Confident"; Selena Gomez’s "Hands to Myself"; Sam Smith’s "How Do You Sleep?"; Normani’s "Motivation"; and 5 Seconds of Summer’s "Wildflower"—they did those, just to name a few. In pop music, there’s the minor leagues, and there’s the big leagues. Then there’s Wolf Cousins.

In addition to Wolf Cousins’ bulletproof track record, Görres has carved out one of the most successful and singular lanes of any member of Max Martin’s lineage. This week, he continues his fruitful partnership with Troye Sivan on the Australian artist’s In A Dream EP, which follows the massive success of their Bloom collaborations "My My My!" and "Plum." And earlier this spring, Görres helped pop disruptor Allie X take us to Cape God with a 12-track album that plumbed new depths for both parties.

"As soon as I had made one song with Oscar, I knew he was very special," Allie tells "I felt that, for the first time, I had a producer who was taking what was special about me as an artist and really translating it into something. He brings a kindness, a knowledge of how to play every instrument prolifically, a sensitivity, a coolness and a confidence that was instrumental in me—for once!—taking a back seat in production. He is certainly one of the best."

"Oscar is the kindest, purest soul, and the control he takes in creative ideas and direction are like very few I’ve ever worked with," Sabrina Carpenter adds. "He makes me laugh—that’s half of what makes us working together feel like we’re not working at all. He trusted my vision, which is all I could ever ask for."

Here, over the course of an hours-long Zoom earlier this week, Gorres talks (in his first interview ever) about his humble beginnings, his goals for making music with and for other artists, writing for legends and studying under Max Martin’s tutelage.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity

How did you first get interested in music?

I grew up in a very musical home. My dad is a musician. I started to play instruments very young with my dad. He even took me out on the streets of Stockholm to perform when I was 5 or 6 years old.

I was signed to Warner Chappell [as a songwriter] when I was 19. That was because me and my friend did songs in my parents’ basement. I didn’t know if I was any good—I wanted a reality check! My girlfriend at the time knew someone who knew someone working at Warner Chappell, so I was lucky enough to have a meeting there and get to play some of our songs. I was signed off of that. Tthey saw something in me that they wanted to develop.

Simultaneously, I went to the Royal College of Music to study jazz piano, so I was still on the "I'm gonna be a musician" path. But there was something about creating, writing and recording music—producing music—that felt right. It’s something that lasts. Sweden is a small market for pop music, so you can imagine the jazz scene here. [Laughs.] It’s not like New York. And jazz as a genre is small as is. I wanted the music I worked on to be heard and experienced by more people.

When you signed with Warner Chappell, was the next step being put into sessions to figure out how you operated?

It was a little bit like that! Working with people and being good in those situations is something you need to practice. They put me together with songwriters on their roster. I think I jumped on and produced a song that was released in Germany first—small steps. Then I worked with Swedish artists. It was a few years of building up my skills, and learning the craft—learning to be a better producer and writer.

Did you have a song or a session where things, after years of building those skills, really clicked into place?

One of the clearest moments I can think of is: I started this idea eight years ago—not that long ago, weirdly enough—which felt good. I was almost embarrassed. It was a little funky. It had jazzy chords. I sent the idea to Shellback. At the moment, Wolf Cousins weren’t even formed, but we knew of each other, even though we’d never worked together. I sent it to him and he was just amazed. Two hours later, he had a melody on top of it. All of a sudden, a world opened up. Later, we recorded that song with Maroon 5 as "Feelings." It’s one of those moments where I was like, "Ok, this is something. Maybe I can do this."

Of course, the moment where I was signed was also the biggest, "This is something of worth" moment. You need to believe in yourself to create things. When you spend a lot of time on them, you don’t know if they’re even anything of use. Then someone tells you, "This is of use. We want to invest in you!" That’s amazing. I feel like I still don’t know what I’m doing. [Laughs.] But that’s also a healthy feeling. You don’t want to buy into your own mythology.  

When you had that Maroon 5 cut and started working with Shellback, is that what started opening doors to markets like America?

Having your songs released in the U.S., the biggest market… that’s always been my dream. The first time I went to L.A., I went there just to feel the energy. Ever since that first time, I felt something special—walking on Sunset, all the clichés. It’s the city of dreams, and broken dreams. "Feelings" and "I Wish" by Cher Lloyd were the two songs that felt like "This is gonna be a door-opener."

All of a sudden, you have something of worth that you can get a work visa off of. I think you need the help of someone that can give you a hand and help you take those steps. It’s so hard when you’re not that well-connected and you don’t have the infrastructure. You need to know people. It’s not like back in the days when you could write a song in your basement and you send it to someone. Those things can happen, but now it’s more relationship-driven.

In Wolf Cousins, we were all scouted mainly from Warner Chappell and from some smaller publishing companies. Max and Shellback had this idea, and had their eyes on us for a couple of years. When they felt like it was time—"Ok, now we can try to pull this off!"—they formed this group of people. I think that song was my ticket in. I haven’t asked!

I have to imagine you were a fan of Max’s before meeting him.

It’s almost surreal. Even though he’s from Sweden, people don’t recognize him on the street here, really. You build this story, this legend of this man, where everything he touches becomes gold. But when I first met him, it was years before. He helped me with a song, because he just wanted to be nice because I worked with someone, Alexander Kronlund, on a track. Max swung by the studio and wanted to help. That was… super scary. But that’s more from my side, because he’s a very normal man—with great taste in music! [Laughs.]

I don’t know if I’m worthy. He is so much about the music, to put in the work, to leave no stone unturned. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You work hard, and it takes time. His passion for music was the most striking thing about him. To me, he is a warm, loving person that cares—a music nerd, essentially. Everything that you imagine, that you thought might be so scary, "Oh, how am I worthy"—all of a sudden you jump into this process where it’s all about the music, and there are no egos! He’ll say, "Maybe we should do this—what do you think?" [Feigns shock.] "What do… I think? Uhhhh..."

With Max, you switch focus to what you’re trying to achieve and what you’re trying to do. All of the other things fade away. But when you say it like that, it’s still surreal to actually be a part of this with him. Working with the people I literally saved articles about from Swedish newspapers—"Oh, Rami [Yacoub] programmed the drums for this Number One record with Britney Spears"—like, I still have that piece of paper cutout from the article! It’s very, very cool. Now they are my friends and my extended family.

But I guess it’s always like that: you build up ideas about people with great power and great knowledge and great success and achievements. Then you realize, they’re normal people that are just very passionate about something.

What other lessons have you taken away from working with Max?

He is very good at creating a safe environment in the room, so people become the best versions of themselves, so you can make all the mistakes, so you can try the crazy ideas and stumble over the happy accidents that can become the core of the song. That’s a very helpful lesson—you can use the accumulated energy in the room, in a way, to let people shine. Create a great environment. Write things. Make all the mistakes. And, maybe later, fix things! Then you can rework things and work on the arrangements. If you just stop the flow to fix things in the moment, the energy falters.

Max is great with people. He makes you feel great. The first time I was in a room with him, he made me feel like I could do something. There were no differences between us, essentially. He asked for my opinions. The thing with him that I think is so cool is that he has great taste. A lot of people talk about how our team has formulas, or steps to follow when we make songs. I don’t know who said that or came up with those things, because there are no structures or magic tricks. That’s totally made up. In his case, I think he follows his gut feeling.

As a young producer/songwriter, you’re very close to things. He is really good—which comes with experience—at taking a step back and seeing the whole thing. He paints with a bigger brush. "What’s the drama here? If this part is very crowded, maybe we need something to balance it here. The energy needs to come down. If you listen to this 20 times, you'll realize we need to work on this passage here."

He’s good at pulling back and looking at a song from a mile away.

Yeah! He’s very versatile, but watching him, I was like, "Oh, this is how the pros work." You can switch focus. You can be granular: "What’s wrong with the bass line? What’s wrong with the kick drum?" Then you can zoom back and say, "Ok, how does this feel? What’s the function of this part? How do we make this part as strong and as clear as possible?"

He also stresses the importance of vocals. That’s one of the big things he’s taught me: work hard on the vocals. Sit there. Do a lot of takes. Let the lead vocal flow naturally. Spend time on that. There are no shortcuts to that. You need to work hard on it. Back in the day, it was just a matter of doing more takes, more takes, more takes. Now we have tools so you can easily comp and make the best version of a vocal take. But essentially what you hear in a song, you hear the vocals, you hear a kick drum, and some music. If you don’t get that right, the rest of it doesn’t matter.

What intentions do you approach sessions with? How do you go in and leave with the best possible work?

I always have an idea of what it could be. "What if this artist did this? What do I wanna hear this artist do?" Most of the time, as a producer in the room, you’re responsible for getting the energy going. Everything comes from deep conversation. In terms of getting a vibe going, you as a producer need to bring something that sparks something else. I never come unprepared, but I like to start everything from scratch. Maybe that’s the benefit of playing instruments—you play something and it’s more like creating on the spot.

One thing I wanna be good at is tuning into the room. Like, "Oh, people are reacting to this!" You can feel when you’re doing something, playing certain chords, when people feel like it’s special—without even saying anything. You do it a lot of times, you have a lot of sessions, and you become good at feeling that energy and what people are reacting to.

With that said, it’s hard. You want to follow the energy, but you also have to steer it, but you don’t want to box anyone in. It doesn’t feel right to say that I help people do their thing and I’m not part of it, because I am, of course. Sometimes I do more than steering. Like when we did “Easy” on Troye’s EP, that morning I had that [sings the verse melody] on my synth. Troye came into the room, heard it, and that started something.

Let’s talk about that creative collaboration with Troye. He’s someone you’ve returned to work with on his new In A Dream EP. How did you two first meet, and why do you keep returning to that relationship?

Troye and I met as a booked session. He came to Sweden for a week or two in 2017, and was meant to work with a lot of people. The first day was nice, and the second day was a good session, but sometimes you need the release of, "Oh, we’ve got something." That came on day three. Day two was close, so he canceled his session the next day. We weren’t supposed to have the third day, but we had it and that’s when "My My My!" was written. He’s just a wonderful person to be around. He has that impact on people. Creatively, he’s very open. He’s very receptive. He always comes to the studio inspired by something: "There was this movie, or this novel, or this coffee shop where the vibe was cool!"

Somehow, he finds an angle. He’s very good at verbalizing and putting his feelings into words. That’s very inspiring to me—an artist who has visions and ideas and brings things to the table. It’s not like you’re meeting him and he’s like, "Ok, what’re we going to do today?" He’s not like any other artist to me. That’s why we keep coming back to each other, because we have a lot of fun together. We find common ground, where I get to be free and he gets to be free and we can create something together.

For his new EP, he came here last year, and I don’t think he was ready for a new album. He didn’t have a plan for "a new big record!" Maybe that’s a sign of the times, too, that artists just want to make music and put it out as a quicker process. This project captured something that he’s been going through since last summer. We just started working.

The first song that felt like we were on to something was "Take Yourself Home." That’s one really cool thing as a songwriter and producer, to create these relationships with artists. You get to develop something together. You feel like you have your thing going. He knows that when we’re working, we have something special.

Plus I imagine there’s something fulfilling for both of you in the ability to return to a collaboration time and time again, because you each know how the other works, and the walls have already come down. It’s probably easy to get back into the swing of making art again much more quickly.

It’s less of the speed dating you have to do in this industry—which can be amazing. But I love that, too, when you just jump into something. Oftentimes that’s when you stumble upon an idea that becomes something. And since it’s the first time you meet, you’re doing a little extra. You want to be the best version of yourself. That versus all the things you were saying about being comfortable with someone… having that trust that I can have a bad day and it’s ok, we’ll come back tomorrow and do another song, a better song? That’s special.

Have you found that one-day magic with anyone recently?

One song in a day that turned out really fun and great was working with Sabrina Carpenter. We did a song called "Bad Time." We just jumped on it. As a producer from Sweden working with an American artist, you think, “Can I be here? What can I do? What can I contribute?” But you go in with that energy like, “OK, I’ve got one day. I have to do my best. I have to give it my all.” It’s that feeling! It becomes like sports. You have a limited time.

I was so hyped that day. It was all done in a day, I think. I worked so hard on that. I remember sending it to her and she was like, [shocked voice] "…. Did you do this already?" That was a really nice experience. Of course not every session goes like that. Maybe when you’ve proven yourself a little bit, in the industry, when you’ve gotten your name out and people want to work with you again, you can get more time. That’s always preferable—to make the mistakes and also to explore the more obscure stuff. To push boundaries a little bit. "This is your sound—but can it be this, too?" Maybe you don’t want to waste taking a wild chance, a leap of faith, when you just have one day. Maybe you end up doing more safe stuff when you have limited time.

One artist you did have the time with is Allie X, whose album Cape God you produced. How did that partnership come about?

We met by accident. I was working with Troye on Bloom in Los Angeles in 2017. I heard a song at the gym on my Discover Weekly playlist, and I said, "Oh, I like this, what is it?” It was Allie X’s "Paper Love." I mentioned that to Troye and he said, "Oh, that’s a friend of mine! I should bring her to the studio. Maybe she could come tomorrow." She came the day after and that was the day we wrote "Plum" [for Troye]. That was our first connection. I knew very little of her artist project and what her songs were like.

When she came to Sweden, we were supposed to work a week, kind of randomly. It was just writing—me, Allie, and James Ghaleb, who’s a friend of mine. No one knew if we were writing for her, or to pitch, or for someone else. And Allie is hilarious. She can go crazy and jump around the room and throw cushions and make weird noises, and she can be super deep in conversations. She’s super intelligent.

We had a guitar and we started jamming. She said something like, "I have a line: 'I want to be near fresh laundry / It’s been too many years of not folding.'" Me and James were like, "…right." But we found something! "Fresh Laundry" was the first song we did. It was a crazy week. We worked almost around the clock in six days. We ended up with "Fresh Laundry," "Rings a Bell" and "Regulars." We had a week in L.A. too, and after that, she asked me to do the whole thing.

Working with Allie has been very liberating, because she is so in favor of me being creative and trying weird, obscure stuff. She’s willing to stretch things and push a little bit, musically. I come from jazz, with chords and chord progressions and modulations between keys and songs. I felt that this was a way for me to stimulate that side of myself. Sometimes you can feel boxed in. Some pop artists just want to do their thing—and that’s great. Some artists are more open. There’s always a balance between that and what the music needs. I felt, working with Allie, there was more space to evolve these things musically.

My job is to make the music sound like their world. Sometimes they think they know what they want it to sound like. All of a sudden, you stumble over something they didn’t see coming. Then that becomes the core of it. Allie had no idea that the Cape God sound was going to be that. It’s something that happened when our worlds collided. I think in those cases, that’s the producer’s biggest role. You help the artist to create their vision, sonically.

You worked with Britney Spears on "Hard to Forget Ya" on Glory. Hers is one of the most iconic, singular voices in modern pop—you can’t ever unhear it. How do you even begin to produce those vocals?

Tell me about it. When I started making music, one of my main goals was to have a Britney Spears song. That was like the last boss in the video game. [Laughs.] The song was actually written during the first songwriting camp in Las Vegas for Warner Chappell. Justin Tranter, Julia Michaels, Mattman & Robin were all in the room next to us. Two of the songs—my song and "Do You Wanna Come Over?"—were written on the same day. Karen Kwak [the executive producer of Glory] was coming over the day after to listen to both of the demos. It was such a fast process.

For some reason, I had that rhythm [sings the melody of the song’s chorus] when I woke up that day. I brought that into the room. Both Chi and Blu, from [songwriting and production duo] Nova Wav, and Ian Kirkpatrick and Edward Drewett were all there. I knew Karen was coming over so I said, "Can we do something for Britney? Just for fun? She’s an icon, she’s amazing, let’s just do it." So we did.

Working on that song, there were a lot of things to fix. The foundation was great and felt really Britney, like something she could do. It felt great. But I took it home to Sweden and worked on it, and Ian worked on it too and sent me files. The Nova girls were out in the countryside and they sent me voice notes. It was a puzzle making that song, but we got it to work, so I sent it to Karen again. Then we didn’t hear anything. All of sudden, we heard: "Britney wants to record it. She loves it."

I couldn’t be there to record her. I was devastated. It was in a hurry too. I think it was one of the last songs she recorded for Glory. But I got the vocals in. One of the things I remember so strongly is her voice has this frequency, that tone that defined my teens. I couldn’t work on it for the first half hour, because I was literally shaking. I was shaking! I feel embarrassed to say this, but I was like, "It’s her. It’s her. It’s HER!" Working on that song and on the vocals… [shakes his head in disbelief]

I had to go back and ask her to re-sing some parts, and I sang a couple of ad libs and said, "Can you do that?" She did and then I felt like, "I can’t believe Britney Spears is singing my words and ad libs back to me." The younger version of myself and myself as a grownup were just over the moon and up in the clouds.

You also netted a song with Taylor Swift on Reputation, "So It Goes…" Did that connection come through Max?

I’d just become a father. I was not in the room when the melody and the lyrics were written. Max and Shellback did half of the album with her in L.A., and I had done this [instrumental] track—which is weird too, because I don’t do tracks. No one really does tracks on our team now. But I’d started that idea. Shellback was looking through things on his computer, listened to that track, and Taylor reacted to it. "Oh, what’s that? That’s special. I haven’t done anything like that. Can we do that?"

So they were vibing and doing melodies, and Taylor had the lyrics. She wrote everything quickly. I woke up—this is the funny part of the story—and someone is FaceTiming me at 6:30 in the morning. I’ve just had a child. I was up all night and my eyes were bloodshot and my hair was crazy. I saw it was Shellback and I ignored the call, put my phone away, and jumped into the shower. My girlfriend is like, "Can you answer your phone? Someone’s calling you constantly, it’s Johan [Shellback]! Can you just take it?" I got out of the shower with a towel wrapped around me and I texted Shellback like, "Ok, it’s 6:30 a.m., I am so tired, I’ve been up all night, and I just got out of the shower. Can I call you back later?" He said, "No. Call me. Now." [Laughs.]

I called him back and saw this girl on his couch. She goes, "Hi! It’s Taylor! How are you?" And I’m presenting myself [in a towel] after a shower… it was a very unpleasant picture for her. She goes, "We just heard the track. We had the melody. The lyrics are like this. I can read you the lyrics! I had this idea. What do you think about that?" And I was like, "…yes!" It was a very strange songwriting session for me, but I’m very thankful for that. It’s the one FaceTime call I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

You've also produced two songs on Katy Perry's new record, Smile—"Teary Eyes" and "Not the End of the World." How did you get those cuts?

JKash [Jacob Kasher] brought me onto this project. This was in April. Everything was shut down and I couldn’t travel. He said, "We have this song, ‘Teary Eyes,’ maybe you could help with the production? We’d like something extra." I don’t remember what it sounded like or what I was supposed to do, but I was sent all the files and then I basically did my thing, together with the other producer, Andrew Goldstein, finding the balance and the final sound. Once we had that done, and it turned out really good, we did the same with the other song. In those cases, it’s more like enhancing things. All the parts are there. All the chords are there. The melody’s there! It’s the exciting part—and a little bit the scary part—of being a producer. It’s not like you go to school and you have this diploma or certificate that says, "Now you’re a producer. Go out into the world and produce!" Everybody has their own ways and learns it by just doing. How do you make your song sound great? It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you end up with a great product.

What you do in those cases is, you get files and then you do it the way you wanna do it. It’s hard to collaborate because there are no rules! I was happy to play a small part on those.

You mentioned that landing a Britney song was one of your goals. Do you have other similar career achievements you’re dreaming of?

When it comes to fascination with vocalists, those tones that resonate in the body, I definitely want to have a Rihanna record. [Laughs.] I love the music she’s been doing lately. It’s so amazing. Bruno Mars is one of those too, someone who wows me. He’s doing his thing. It’s so fantastic to watch him in his element, and I think we’d have a fun day jamming in the studio.

To me, success is being able to do this at all. The next song you’re doing and working on, the feeling it gives you when it hits you right, when you get it to sound right or when you nail it—"Oh, there it is!"—and you can blast it and it feels good in your body… that’s success to me. Every time that happens, it’s success. If I can get to feel that, hopefully someone else in the world can feel that way too.

I’m still pinching myself, like, “Wow, I can do this. I can support my family by making music.” How cool is that? If I can do this in five years, that is true success. I’m 34 now. I’ve actually been in this industry for 15 years, but I haven’t been on this level for 15 years. Things take time. A lot of people fall off along the way. It’s not a fair industry at all. So I’m very humbled and very thankful and grateful that I can be doing this… but a Rihanna record would be nice. [Laughs.]

Ricky Reed Invites You Into 'The Room' Where It Happened

Listen To's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More
(L-R, clockwise): Hayley Kiyoko, Ricky Martin, Brandi Carlile, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Orville Peck, Omar Apollo

Photo: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for LARAS, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images, Gustavo Garcia Villa


Listen To's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More

Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 with a 50-song playlist that spans genres and generations, honoring trailblazing artists and allies including George Michael, Miley Cyrus, Orville Peck, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande and many more.

GRAMMYs/Jun 1, 2023 - 04:21 pm

In the past year, artists in the LGBTQIA+ community have continued to create change and make history — specifically, GRAMMY history. Last November, Liniker became the first trans artist to win a Latin GRAMMY Award when she took home Best MPB Album for Indigo Borboleta Anil; three months later, Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first nonbinary and trans artists, respectively, to win the GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their sinful collab "Unholy."

Just those two feats alone prove that the LGBTQIA+ community is making more and more of an impact every year. So this Pride Month, celebrates those strides with a playlist of hits and timeless classics that are driving conversations around equality and fairness for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Below, take a listen to 50 songs by artists across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum — including "Unholy" and Liniker's "Baby 95" — on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.

Touring In A Post-Pandemic World: How Costs, Personnel & Festival Culture Have Affected 2023 Performances
Crowds at the 2023 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella


Touring In A Post-Pandemic World: How Costs, Personnel & Festival Culture Have Affected 2023 Performances

The live music business is still dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic. spoke with a cross section of professionals about the industry's most profound changes, how they’re being addressed, and what it all might mean for the future.

GRAMMYs/May 19, 2023 - 02:51 pm

The pandemic wreaked global havoc on many levels. Beyond the human toll, the disruptions brought on by the spread of COVID-19 caused deep and lasting damage to nearly every business sector, including live entertainment. Virtually overnight, workers lost their livelihoods, businesses closed their doors or drastically curtailed operations, and supply chains were hobbled. 

Within days of lockdown, multiple outlets published sobering articles detailing the tours, concerts and festivals that had been affected by the outbreak; article identified at least 170 postponements or cancellations. In a flash, every artist across the globe witnessed the live performance side of their careers vaporize. Crews were sent home, and all of the businesses that served the sector — logistics, audio gear, food service and more — found a barren landscape.

During the pandemic, major promoter Live Nation saw a drastic drop in the number of concerts and festivals under its banner: from over 40,000 events in 2019 to just over 8,000 in 2020. But by the end of 2022, reported that the year’s top 100 tours sold approximately 59 million tickets — more than 2019's sales. 

Three years after the beginning of the pandemic, life is in many ways returning to normal. Yet the costs associated with putting on a concert have risen dramatically, due to both the pandemic's inflationary pressures and a surge in demand for the goods and services necessary to sustain tours. For those working in and around the live music business, the "new normal" means some things work as they did before COVID-19 while others have altered radically — either temporarily or for good. spoke with a cross section of industry professionals about some of the most profound changes, how they’re being addressed, and what it all might mean for the future. 

New Touring Paradigms

With the return of live music has come a corresponding, pent-up surge in demand, notes Christy Castillo Butcher, Senior VP, Programming & Booking at the 70,000 seat SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. "To satiate that demand, you have to have a bigger venue." 

In 2023 alone, SoFi Stadium is hosting several megashows: Billy Joel & Stevie Nicks, Grupo Firme, Romeo Santos, a five-night Taylor Swift residency, Metallica, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran and P!nk are all on the venue’s calendar, with additional shows awaiting announcement. Madison Square Garden saw multiple sold-out performances by Janet Jackson, and will host a seven-night Phish residency. 

Since the pandemic, some artists have taken different approaches to touring. Tandem tours and residencies are just two of the phenomena that seem to be increasing in popularity with touring artists and their management teams.

Teaming up for a tandem tour isn’t a new idea; package tours have been part of the concert landscape from the days of Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars in the mid 1960s. And in an era when post-pandemic-related shortages and logistical snags make touring even more challenging, the practice is finding renewed interest.

One of the highest-profile tandem tours of 2023 is the ZZ Top/Lynyrd Skynyrd Sharp Dressed Simple Man tour. Visiting more than 22 cities across the U.S, the tour brings together three-time GRAMMY nominees ZZ Top with the popular Southern rock band.

"You want to give the fans the value of seeing two bands together," says Ross Schilling, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Tour Manager. (Pollstar reported an average ticket price for the top 100 North American tours in the first half of 2022 at more than $108. Meanwhile, ticket prices for megastars such as Beyoncé and Swift have reached astronomical levels.)

Schilling acknowledges that there are pros and cons for the artists as well. "You're sharing the expenses and the revenues," he notes, adding that the production is often halved. "Video, pyro, smoke, whatever kind of elements you want to add" can be shared on a tandem tour.

Read more: 5 Reasons Why Taylor Swift's Eras Tour Will Be The Most Legendary Of Her Generation

Another option experiencing a renaissance is the concert residency. "Residencies are not new, of course," says Phil Carson, a touring and management veteran who spent many years on the road with high-profile rock bands including Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, AC/DC and Yes. "They started with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. when there was really only one place to go: Las Vegas." 

Today there are many more options, but the motivations are often the same as before. "Sammy, Dean Martin… all those guys wanted to hang out together, and didn't want to go on the bloody road," Carson explains. As their audiences grew older, they too were interested in the idea of going to one place to see their favorite performers.

And Carson thinks that the multi-night approach may well be part of a trend for the future. "We’re starting to get two-and three-night runs in casinos across America," he says. Adele, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood and Carlos Santana are just a few of the artists eschewing the road in favor of a series of dates in one venue. 

The trend is extending to smaller venues as well. Singer/songwriter James McMutry and his band launched a residency at Austin' Continental Club in November 2021; that booking continues to the present day. And just last August, Robert Glasper announced a 48-show residency at the Blue Note Club in New York City; it’s his fourth extended run of dates at the famed jazz venue.

Festivals Return En Force

Following increased demand for live entertainment post-lockdown, major music festivals returned with a force in 2022 and continue to do so in 2023. Coachella and Lollapalooza were among the multi-day, multi-weekend events returning after COVID-forced cancellations, while mid-level events such as San Francisco's Outside Lands also saw over 220,000 attendees in 2022 — a major boon for a live music industry that had been in crisis only a year before.

Celebrating and featuring a multigenerational lineup of Latinx artists and performers, the Bésame Mucho Festival premiered in December 2022 at the 56,000 capacity Dodger Stadium. Tickets sold out within 70 minutes. The lineup for the 2023 event was announced in February; once again, the event sold out almost immediately.

Read more: Latin Music's Next Era: How New Festivals & Big Billings Have Helped Bring Reggaeton, New Corridos & More To The Masses

Ashley Capps has been wholly immersed in the festival scene; former head of AC Entertainment, for many years he oversaw the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. These days he has scaled back his activities but still curates the adventurous Big Ears Festival which he founded in 2009 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

"The post-pandemic Big Ears has seen extraordinary growth," he says, noting a pre-COVID trajectory of growth, with an annual 20 percent increase in ticket sales. The 2022 Big Ears — the first after a two-year pause — experienced a 35 percent growth. "That led us to declare our first full-on sellout," he says, "five weeks before the festival happened." 

In 2023, Big Ears noted another surge in ticket sales, surpassing 50 percent over the previous year. The multiple-venue festival added additional larger venues to accommodate the increased demand. Concertgoers "are certainly hungry to get back into the live music experience," Capps says. "And the artists we’re working with at Big Ears are eager to be back out and in front of appreciative audiences."

That pent-up demand on both sides of the equation can result in a crowded field, with many events — even beyond music — competing both for attention, staffing and gear.

The Cost Of Making Music

Global logistical bottlenecks that plagued every industry continue to take a toll on the live music industry. Worldwide economic inflation — which hit 8.8 percent in 2022, nearly doubling year-over-year, a partial result of the pandemic — has increased costs and cut profits, laying the groundwork for a "rocky road to recovery." Finding themselves without opportunities for work during the pandemic, untold numbers of skilled tour technicians left the business. 

"People got out of the industry across the board, from musicians to agents to managers to bartenders to production staff," says Morgan Margolis, CEO/President of Knitting Factory Entertainment. "'I’ve got to do something else.' I saw a lot of that." Some never returned, causing a personnel shortage once live touring resumed.

All that affected live music venues, too. "We were shuffling around tour managers, production managers, box office personnel," says Margolis. He characterizes his company — active nationwide in venue operations, festivals, artist management, touring and more — as an "all hands on deck" operation. "I actually slung some drinks in Walla Walla at an Aaron Lewis concert," he says. 

Increased costs mean it’s essential to run the leanest operation possible while maintaining quality. Margolis recalls the landscape when live music started coming back in 2022. "Vans and buses: everything was running out, even rental cars," he remembers. "And everything — generators, lighting rigs, staging rigs – was now 20-30 percent more expensive, because everybody was spread so thin."  

But like many in the business, Margolis simply made the best of things. "Personally, I was excited to be on the ground again," he says. "I wanted to be around people." 

After a nearly overwhelming surge of music artists getting back into live performance, he says that he is seeing a "more methodical" mindset taking hold. That compares to how he characterizes 2022: "Throw it all against the wall: we’re going everywhere!"

Read more: Beyond Coachella: 10 Smaller Festivals Beloved For Their Homegrown Vibes & Huge Lineups

Another new wrinkle: proposed rule changes by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would increase the costs to international musicians of obtaining a U.S. visa by as much as 260 percent. "The more these policies are made, the harder it is for us to share our music,” says Sampa the Great. The Zambian singer/songwriter and rapper notes that the proposed changes will hit independent artists especially hard: "Touring is the only way our music gets heard globally."

Such across-the-board cost increases can mean that some international artists have to have tough conversations. If not through touring, Sampa the Great wonders, "How else do we connect with the people who support our music? And how else do we independent artists sustain our careers making music?"

Schilling admits that during the worst of the shutdown, he thought about retiring — and so did one of his biggest clients. Skynyrd began a farewell tour in 2018, which was ultimately cut short by the pandemic, prompting serious soul searching. "When everyone’s livelihood was ripped out from under them, they decided 'We want to go out on our own terms.'" This year’s tandem tour with ZZ Top puts things right, Schilling adds. 

That kind of thinking is widespread among the professionals who remain in the game post-COVID. From many working as venue owners to tour managers to crew to artists, the chance to get back on the road outweighs the challenges that they will inevitably encounter. There are many career paths easier than working in the live music industry, but few can compare with its rewards.

Changes Backstage And Post-Show

Before the pandemic, many touring artists arranged meet-and-greet sessions before or after their shows. They provided an opportunity for interaction between fans and artists, and represented an additional revenue stream for the artists. During the pandemic era, those sessions disappeared, even for the new shows that could still take place. Today, even while enforced social distancing has largely disappeared, the state of meet-and-greets is not what it was. 

"My last three artists aren’t doing meet-and-greets, because there's still that concern of COVID," says David Norman, a longtime promoter, tour director, manager and accountant currently on tour with Evanescence; his past clients have included Prince, John Fogerty, Earth Wind & Fire, Green Day, Alicia Keys, Tyler, the Creator and many others. 

Norman points out that his artists take a financial hit by eliminating the meet-and-greets. "But it’s better to be safe than sorry," he says, noting that a musician who tests positive for COVID can "shut down [performances] for weeks. Then you have to reroute [the tour], and refund money to people who aren’t able to come to rescheduled shows."

Others take a different approach. "Lynyrd Skynyrd will do meet-and-greets," says Schilling, adding that his team "wants to get back to as normal as we possibly can, as fast as we possibly can." André Cholmondeley is a musician, longtime tour manager and tech support professional who worked as guitar tech for Yes guitarist Steve Howe

Before 2020, "if you bought the meet-and-greet package, you could shake their hands," he says. "There were lots of hugs and pictures." Now the experience involves more waving and fist-bumping. Foreigner, meanwhile, has recently swapped meet-and-greets for Q&A sessions. “Everybody has a great time, and the band is not bored with it because it's different every night," says Phil Carson, the band's Tour Manager. 

Life away from the audience has changed, too. 

"One major change across the board is the huge difference in catering," says Cholmondeley, who has recently toured with Pat Metheny and Ani DiFranco. Before COVID, touring artists and their crews would typically find a buffet backstage. "We order a lot more food now," Cholmondeley explains. "You get a couple of menus texted to you each day."

Carson notes that the band has found an alternative solution that works for them. "Our singer Kelly Hansen is a chef who won an episode of Food Network’s 'Chopped,'" he says with pride. "He's got a whole kitchen range on our tour bus. He makes breakfast, he makes tacos after the show." 

Carson readily admits that such an approach stands in sharp contrast to rock‘n’roll road dining in the ‘70s. "Back then," he says with a hearty laugh, "it was a few lines of coke and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s!"

Bridging The Gap

Beginning in March 2020, the cancellations and disruptions brought upon by the pandemic reverberated throughout the live music industry. But as the business sector enters the third quarter of 2023, the focus is once again on the future, and guarded optimism is the prevailing perspective. 

Festival season is officially underway, with Coachella wrapping up two weekends of massive-scale excitement, and a host of other events slated throughout the summer promising an active several months for touring musicians and crews. Taylor Swift's Eras tour is selling out fast, while Beyoncé's Renaissance tour has only just begun (to much fanfare, as expected). It seems as if touring as we once knew it is falling back into place. 

Even with her focus on recording — she counts two albums, an EP, two mixtapes and nearly 30 singles — Sampa the Great emphasizes the appeal of live music for both audience and entertainer. 

"Performing is the best way to connect with an audience," she says. "You're translating your music from audio to something visual, something physical. It bridges that gap from just hearing an artist or seeing them on social [media] to actually experiencing the artist." 

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5 Reasons Why Taylor Swift's Eras Tour Will Be The Most Legendary Of Her Generation
Taylor Swift performs during the Eras Tour in Nashville on May 6.

Photo: John Shearer/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management


5 Reasons Why Taylor Swift's Eras Tour Will Be The Most Legendary Of Her Generation

Whether she's breaking records or breaking Ticketmaster, Taylor Swift has proven time and again that she's one of the most powerful figures in modern music — and the Eras Tour is a manifestation of that.

GRAMMYs/May 8, 2023 - 10:31 pm

Since the moment Taylor Swift announced the Eras Tour, there was no denying that it was going to be the tour of the year. From playing impressive two- and three-night stands at stadiums across the country to crashing Ticketmaster upon just the presale, the Eras Tour was making headlines before it even began.

But after witnessing it in person, it's clear that Swift is not just delivering the tour of the year — it's the tour of her generation. 

Sure, Beyoncé fans can't wait for her tour this summer; Harry Styles is about to embark on the final leg of his highly successful Love On Tour trek; BLACKPINK sold out stadiums around the country too. Yet, it's hard to imagine that any other tour this year will have a cultural impact as big as the Eras Tour — something that's wildly apparent whether or not you were there.

Even before Swift hit the stage for her first night at Nashville's Nissan Stadium on May 5, her influence was felt. Practically every fan of the 70,000 in attendance (a record for the venue — more on that later) was wearing some sort of reference to their favorite Swift era: a beloved lyric, or an iconic performance or music video look. While that's not necessarily a new trend in the Swiftie world, seeing all 10 of her eras represented throughout a stadium-sized crowd was equal parts meaningful and remarkable. 

As someone who has been to hundreds of tours and most of Swift's — including the Reputation Tour, which I naively referred to as "the peak of her career" — I didn't think this one would feel much different than a typical stadium show. But even when Swift was just a few songs in of her impressive three-and-a-half hour set, a feeling came over me like I wasn't just watching one of music's greats — I was part of music history.

Below, here are five reasons why the Eras Tour will go down as one of the most iconic of Swift's generation.

It's Treated Like A Holiday

In the week leading up to the shows and over the weekend, Nashville was abundant with special events in Swift's honor. From Taylor-themed trivia nights to pre- and post-show dance parties to wine lists transformed into "eras," practically every place you went was commemorating her return (she last performed in Nashville in 2018). 

While it's unclear whether this kind of takeover is happening in every city — after all, she does consider Nashville a hometown, as she said on stage — it's rare to see an artist have such a ripple effect by simply just coming to town.

During her May 5 show, Swift added to the excitement by sharing the highly anticipated news that Speak Now (Taylor's Version) was coming on July 7. Upon the announcement, three of Nashville's monuments — the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, the Tennessee State Capitol and the Alliance Bernstein building downtown — were illuminated in purple, the album's color.

It's Breaking Records Left And Right

Though Swift is no stranger to breaking records, she continues to do so with the Eras Tour. After setting the all-time attendance record at Nissan Stadium on night one of her Nashville run, Swift topped herself (something has become accustomed to on the charts as well) with another attendance record on night two.

And despite the controversial ticketing frenzy the tour caused, Swift also broke a Ticketmaster record with more than 2.4 million tickets sold — the most by an artist in a single day — in the presale alone. If Swift announces an international leg of the tour, Pollstar projects that the Eras Tour could surpass $1 billion, which would add yet another first to her ever-growing list.

It's Spawned Parking Lot Parties

As if history-making attendance and record-breaking ticket sales aren't indication enough of Swift's power, the Eras Tour is so highly in-demand that fans are sitting outside of the venue to still be part of the show (as some fans have cleverly called it, "Taylorgating"). Fans crowded barricades and camped out in the parking lot of Nissan Stadium, ready to watch (and scream-sing along with) Swift on the big screen — something that has seemingly been happening in every city.

@lizabethvictor Dancing right there in the middle of the parking lot :’) @taylorswift @taylornation #tampatstheerastour #theerastour #taylorswift #taylorsversion #fearless ♬ original sound - elizabeth victor

It Can't Be Stopped By The Elements

Adding to the magnitude of the Eras Tour, Swift performs 45 songs across three and a half hours. And to make her last night in Nashville even more momentous, she did almost all of that in pouring rain.

Swift didn't get to take the stage until after 10 p.m. on May 7 because of storms in the area (she normally goes on around 7:50 local time), but that didn't mean she'd be shortening her set. Carrying on until after 1:30 a.m. — even through the "element of slippiness happening," as she joked — Swift made it clear that she's determined to give each show her all regardless of the weather.

It's Simply A Feel-Good Celebration

Perhaps it was the five-year gap between the last time she toured. Perhaps it was the four new albums of material. Perhaps it was the celebratory nature of the show. Whatever inspired the vibe of the Eras Tour, I've never seen Taylor Swift or her fans so alive. The passion was tangible, the energy was magnetic.

Though Swift has always been known as an artist with a very loyal following, it was still mind-blowing to hear 70,000 people belt out every word for three hours straight. There aren't many artists whose catalogs are as equally beloved as they are extensive, especially one who hasn't even seen her 34th birthday. No matter how many albums and tours are in Swift's future, the Eras Tour captures a special moment in time — and celebrates a legend in her prime. 

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5 Things We Learned From GRAMMY Museum's New The Power Of Song Exhibit, A Celebration Of Songwriters From Tom Petty To Taylor Swift
A selection of items on display at Power of Song Exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum.

Photo: Rebecca Sapp


5 Things We Learned From GRAMMY Museum's New The Power Of Song Exhibit, A Celebration Of Songwriters From Tom Petty To Taylor Swift

Nile Rodgers, Jimmy Jam, Smokey Robinson and more provide deep insights into their hit collaborations and creative process at GRAMMY Museum's The Power of Song: A Songwriters Hall of Fame Exhibit, open from April 26 through Sept. 4.

GRAMMYs/Apr 26, 2023 - 08:23 pm

Since its founding in 1969, the Songwriters Hall of Fame has been celebrating the great songwriters and composers of our time. In 2010, it found a physical home at Downtown Los Angeles' GRAMMY Museum.

Now, the GRAMMY Museum is adding to that legacy with a special expanded exhibit, which dives deep into the history of songwriting and recorded music in the United States — as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame and its inductees' role in it. Whether you're a songwriter or musician who loves the creative process, a history nerd, or simply a music lover, this exhibit is for you.

When you enter The Power Of Song, you'll hear the voices of legendary Songwriter Hall of Fame inductees and GRAMMY winners — including Nile Rodgers, Carole King, Diane Warren, Smokey Robinson and Jimmy Jam — discussing their creative process and some of the biggest songs they've written. Take a seat on the couch to absorb all their wisdom in the deeply informative and inspiring original short film.

Turn to the right, and you'll find a timeline across the entire wall, explaining the origins and key points around songwriting and recorded music in the U.S. On the other wall, pop on the headphones provided to enjoy a video of memorable Hall of Fame ceremony performances. One interactive video interface near the entrance allows you to hear "song highlights," and another allows you to explore the entire Songwriters Hall of Fame database.

The exhibit is filled with a treasure trove of handwritten song lyrics from Taylor Swift, Cyndi Lauper, Tom Petty and many more, as well as iconic artifacts, including Daft Punk's helmets, a classy Nile Rodgers GRAMMY look, and guitars from Bill Withers, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and Toby Keith.

Below, take a look at five things we learned from The Power Of Song: A Songwriters Hall Of Fame Exhibit, which will be at the GRAMMY Museum from April 26 through Sept. 4.

Daft Punk Rerecorded "Get Lucky" To Fit Nile Rodgers' Funky Guitar

Legendary funk pioneer and superproducer Nile Rodgers is the current Chairman of the SHOF and has an active presence at the exhibit. One case features the disco-esque lime green Dior tuxedo Rodgers wore to the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, along with the shiny metallic helmets of French dance duo Daft Punk, who collaborated with Rodgers on their GRAMMY-winning 2013 album, Random Access Memories.

Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk and Rodgers had forged a friendship and been wanting to collab for years prior to 2013's Record Of The Year-winning smash "Get Lucky." When they finally connected and Bangalter and de Homem-Christo played the CHIC founder the demo for "Get Lucky," he asked to hear it again with everything muted except the drum track, so he could create the perfect guitar lick for it.

Bangalter and de Homem-Christo decided to essentially re-record the whole song to fit Rodgers' guitar, which joyously drives the track — and carried it to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, Daft Punk's first Top 5 hit.

Nile Rodgers Display at GRAMMY Museum

Photo: Rebecca Sapp

Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis Set Up Their Studio The "Wrong" Way Because Of Prince

In the exhibit film, Jimmy Jam tells several stories about working with — and learning from — Prince. He recalls how he and Terry Lewis watched Prince work and record everything "in the red," so they set up their Minneapolis studio to follow his lead. A sound engineer told them it was too loud, but that ended up being the sound that artists like Janet Jackson and Usher came to them for. It was a "happy mistake," as Jam put it, that helped their legendary careers as a powerhouse production duo take off.

Prince's dogmatic, tireless work ethic also rubbed off on the powerhouse pair. One rehearsal, the Purple One kept pressing Jam to do more, which resulted in him playing two instruments, singing and hitting the choreography from behind his keyboard. "He saw that I could do more than I thought I could; he saw me better than I saw myself," he reflected.

"God Bless America" Composer Irving Berlin Didn't Read Music

In his 50 year-career, Irving Berlin wrote over 1000 songs, many of which defined American popular music for the better part of the 20th century. Along with penning "God Bless America," "White Christmas," "Puttin' on the Ritz," and "There's No Business Like Show Business" (among many other classics), he wrote 17 full Broadway musical scores and contributed songs to six more plays.

Berlin also wrote scores for early Hollywood musicals starring the likes of Ginger Rodgers, Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe, and Bing Crosby. He made a lasting, indelible mark on music, theater, film and American culture writ large.

Rather astonishingly, the widely celebrated American Tin Pan Alley-era composer was self-taught and didn't read sheet music. His family immigrated to New York from Imperial Russia when he was 5 years old, and when he was just 13, his father died, so he busked on the streets and worked as a singing waiter to help his family out.

In 1907, at 19, he had his first song published, and just four years later penned his first international hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Berlin had a natural musicality and played music by ear in the key of F-sharp, with the help of his trusted upright transposing piano, a rare instrument that had a mechanism allowing him to shift into different keys. His "trick piano," as he called it, where many of his unforgettable songs first came to life, is on display at the exhibit.

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Smokey Robinson Didn't Expect "My Girl" To Become A Timeless Hit

Smokey Robinson was an important part of Motown's hit-making factory as a singer, songwriter and producer. In the exhibit film, he discusses "My Girl," one of his classic tunes, which he wrote and produced for the Temptations in 1965.

"I had no idea it would become what it would become," he said.

He says that people often ask him why he didn't record the unforgettable song with his group the Miracles instead of "giving it away" to the Temptations, but he never regretted his decision. Instead, he's honored to have created music that stands the test of time and means so much to so many people.

Robinson joked that the Temptations' then-lead singer David Ruffin's gruff voice scared girls into going out with him. Really, he loved Ruffin's voice, and thought he'd sound great singing a sweet love song like "My Girl." Safe to say he was right.

After World War II, Pop Music Changed Forever

Prior to World War II, American music operated as a singular mainstream market, and New York's Tin Pan Alley songwriters competed to make the next pop or Broadway hit. In a post-World War II America, especially when the early Baby Boomer generation became teenagers and young adults in the '60s and '70s, tastes changed and new styles of pop and pop songwriting emerged. As rock shook up popular culture, Tin Pan Alley gave way to a new era of young songwriters, many who worked out of just two buildings in midtown Manhattan, 1619 Broadway (the Brill Building) and 1650 Broadway.

In this richly creative and collaborative environment, powerhouse songwriting duos began to emerge and reshape pop music, challenging and balancing each other — and creating a ton of hits in the process. The hit-making duos of this diversified pop era included Burt Bacharach and Hal David (Dionne Warrick's "That's What Friends Are For"), Carole King and Gerry Goffin (Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion"), Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'") and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and the Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me," both in collaboration with Phil Spector). In fact, there are far too many classics penned by these four prolific songwriter duos to list here.

While there are still songwriters that pen big hit after hit for pop stars (Max Martin is still at it, as is his protege Oscar Görres), the dynamics in the industry have continued to shift with singers taking on more creative power themselves. Today's pop stars — including Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift — have found success co-writing with their own trusted teams of songwriters and producers. But as this new exhibit shows, it doesn't matter who is behind the pen — the power of song is mighty.

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