Jon Nite recently visited MusicRow to discuss his songwriting process for our 2015 Publisher Issue print magazine.
Nite is the recipient of three MusicRow No. 1 Challenge Coins for writing “Strip It Down” (Luke Bryan), “Smoke” (A Thousand Horses), and “Beachin'” (Jake Owen). His significant success continued over the years with “Glass” (Thompson Square), “Tip It On Back” (Dierks Bentley), and “Whatever She’s Got” (David Nail).
The Sony/ATV songwriter gave insight into the Nashville songwriter community, citing Cam’s Sony Nashville breakthrough–“Burning House” (Jeff Bhasker/Tyler Johnson/Cam)–as unique because usually fewer risks are taken when writing music for radio. That song, he says, gives writers hope.
“’Burning House’ is a breath of fresh air,” noted Nite. “To see something on the radio that’s not worried about what anyone thinks is really motivating.”
As the conversation turned to digital music, Nite said, “Songwriters know streaming music is either going to save us or doom us. Most songwriters are optimistic, I am too. Someone will figure out how to compensate people for music.
“I’m thankful that [Nashville songwriters] Lee Thomas Miller and Nicolle Galyon are talking face-to-face to congressmen to plead our case because I’m not a talker. But it can’t hurt for those songwriters who go to Washington to show the power a hit song can have to change someone’s life, or to lay out the family budget compared to streaming compensation. I’m optimistic, but there needs to be about 1,000 percent difference to compensate for the loss of income from downloads.
“It’s funny when you talk to the songwriters who have been around for multiple decades, because they always refer to the ‘90s income boom. They say that 80 percent of the songwriters that would have been in a job are not in a job now. I’m the lucky one to get up and do it but it does feel like there is only a small community who are doing super well—I imagine probably 15 top songwriters and 200 professional writers.
“With such few songwriters, there is a decrease in songs like ‘Burning House.’ You can get in this self-perpetuating cycle where the sound of a hit is everywhere if songwriters think they can’t pay their bills or may get dropped unless they produce something that sounds like a radio hit. ‘Burning House’ is a backlash from the economics where you need to have a radio-sounding song.
“But even if we’re writing them, they still may not be pitched as a single. Even still, the songs that provide for your family are the ones that make it to terrestrial radio—radio listeners decide. All I know is there are lesser risks in the writing room, even less that are cut, not to mention singled.”
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