These Producers Have More Hits Than the Beatles (And You Don’t Know Their Names)

September 15, 2016 5:00 am


Do the names Karl Martin Sandberg, Mikkel Eriksen, Tor Hermansen, and Esther Dean sound familiar? It’s okay if they don’t. Despite being responsible for more hits than the Beatles or Michael Jackson, few Americans know their names. As music producers, they go by pseudonyms, but even those–Max Martin, Stargate, Dr. Luke, and Ester Dean–are likely just as unrecognizable. (Though Dr. Luke did receive some unwanted publicity as a result of his ongoing legal battles with Kesha and her mother, who have accused him of rape.)

Modern music thrives on individuals like these. The producers churn out beats that are the lifeblood of pop. Sometimes they even sell the same beat to different artists only to have both be successful. Trends like this occur all too often because the familiar sounds are easily palatable. The Atlantic‘s Nathaniel Rich dives into the world of pop and explores how the industry has swelled to support producers like Sandberg and Martin. Here, he details how one of these beats gets sold:

“Once a hit is ready, a songwriter must find a singer to bring it to the masses. The more famous the performer, the wider the audience, and the greater the royalties for the writer. Hits are shopped like scripts in Hollywood, first to the A-list, then to the B-list, then to the aspirants. ‘… Baby One More Time,’ the Max Martin song that made Britney Spears’s career, was declined by TLC. Spears’s team later passed on ‘Umbrella,’ which made Rihanna a star. The most successful songwriters, like Max Martin and Dr. Luke, occasionally employ a potentially more lucrative tactic: They prospect for unknowns whom they can turn into stars. This allows them to exert greater control over the recording of the songs and to take a bigger cut of royalties by securing production rights that a more established performer would not sign away.”

Read the full story here. To get a sense of how prolific these producers can be, watch the video below enumerating the bevy of hits created by Stargate, the duo of Mikkel Eriksen and Tor Hermansen. Many will sound familiar.

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