A weird thing that happens with music is that you can hear a song 100 times a day and never really know who’s on it. Back in the old days — less than ten years ago — when albums were primarily consumed by physically purchasing a CD, liner notes detailed each person who had a hand in crafting your favorite bops, jams, and singalongs. However, in the era of streaming, access to that information has been curtailed, and is often a wholly separate search from simply finding the songs on the streaming outlet of your choice.
Sure, you’d know who the performing artist is. Those beats would be instantly catchy, those hooks would reel you in. In many cases, you’d be able to identify the beat maker from an iconic tag — Metro Boomin’s “If young Metro don’t trust you, I’ma shoot you,” or Mike Will’s “Ear Drummers.” But who penned those hooks? Who’s really getting paid for instantly recognizable lines like “Didn’t you know I’m a savage?” Songwriters are often left out of the spotlight and off the top billing, despite doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that turns a few strains of melody and a handful of musical chords into a certified hit.
Spotify wants to change that. As of this month, the streaming service has begun to include songwriter and producer credits in the album information. Now, with only a couple of clicks or taps, users can see which songwriters are credited to a given track. In an era of unprecedented collaboration, this information is invaluable to music fans who want to follow not just their favorite performers, but also the masterminds who truly create the soundtracks to their everyday lives.
Spotify has also begun the Secret Genius program to highlight these creators and shine a light on the artists behind the artists with a podcast and a series of playlists on the app, as well as writing camps that connect some of the most important behind-the-scenes figures to share ideas and collaborate on their next big hits. Participants have included Starrah, the scribe behind the above-mentioned Rihanna quote from “Needed Me” and Camila Cabello’s “Havana,” James Fauntleroy, who recently won an Album Of The Year Grammy alongside Bruno Mars for his work on Bruno’s 24K Magic, and Boi-1da, the Toronto producer who’s crafted some of Drake’s biggest hits including “Best I Ever Had,” “Over,” “Controlla,” and his recent No. 1 “God Plan.” Boi-1da is also the man behind huge hits like Rihanna’s “Work,” G-Eazy’s “No Limit,” and “Summer Bummer” by Lana Del Rey.
I sat in on the most recent Spotify Song Shop writing camp to find out more about the Secret Genius program from close up and talked with Boi-1da about his writing process, his “desert island” songs, and what it’s like to have helped put Toronto on the map.