THR Names Music's 35 Top Hitmakers

8:05 AM 2/6/2013

by Edited by Shirley Halperin and Bob Love

Behind the songs of Katy Perry, Rihanna, Pink and Taylor Swift are the songwriters, producers and execs that make it all possible.

From left: Dr. Luke, Ammo, Emily Wright, Blanco (with dog Disco), Bonnie McKee, Becky G, Ammar Malik, Cirkut
From left: Dr. Luke, Ammo, Emily Wright, Blanco (with dog Disco), Bonnie McKee, Becky G, Ammar Malik, Cirkut
Rainer Hosch

This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble," Bruno Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven" -- the secret ingredient in these pop hits is behind the scenes: the songwriters, producers, A&R executives and multihyphenate artists who help create those irresistible hooks.

Their services don't come cheap -- from $30,000 to $100,000 per song for the top-tier masters of the craft, often with points as incentives -- but the residuals of a Top 10 hit can last a lifetime. In recent years, however, it's become common to see as many as a dozen names credited on a single tune, which means the slices of the publishing pie are getting smaller. Still, there's plenty left to nosh on, as these 35 in-demand hitmakers prove.

Selection Criteria: For THR’s Hitmakers list, editors based their selections on the following: single and album sales, chart position achieved, current Grammy nominations and years in the business.

Written by Michele Amabile Angermiller, Steve Baltin, Fred Bronson, Rebecca Ford, Sharifa Godfrey, Nisha Gopalan, Shirley Halperin, Sophie Schillaci, Bud Scoppa, Colin Stutz, Georg Szalai, Jeff Weiss, Chris Willman, Stacey Wilson and Emily Zemler.

  • Max Martin

    Songwriter/Producer

    Max Martin with Katy Perry
    Max Martin with Katy Perry
    AP

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    By any subjective standard, Sweden's Martin (ne Martin Karl Sandberg) deserves his No. 1 ranking as music's top hitmaker. Objectively, though, the numbers don't lie: 135,433,000 singles sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan, with more than 38 songs topping a million units.

    To find out more about Max Martin's profile, click here.

     

  • Dr. Luke

    Producer/Songwriter

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    His mind-boggling success rate -- more than 40 hit singles since 2004 -- is proof the U.S. has a new King of Pop. It's no wonder, since the New York native was mentored by top-level titan Max Martin. "I love him to death," says Luke (ne Lukasz Gottwald), 39, adding, "I learn from my writers as much as they're learning from me." After scoring his first global smash in 2004 with Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," the L.A.-based Luke and his posse (see opposite) have been unstoppable. "California Gurls," "Tik Tok" and "Price Tag" are just a few of the No. 1s he's notched for Katy Perry, Ke$ha and Jessie J, respectively. His secret? "I'm always petrified that this is my last good song." Until the next one comes along.

    Read Dr. Luke's full Q&A here.

     

  • Will.i.am

    Producer/Singer/Songwriter

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    It's nearly impossible to imagine music’s pop and urban landscape in the 21st century without the constant presence of will.i.am (ne William James Adams). The 37-year-old Los Angeles native, who got his start as a runner at famed recording studio Paramount, has dominated radio and the charts as both the sonic architect of Black Eyed Peas -- who have scored 10 Top 10 hits since breaking through commercially in 2003, and as a producer who’s teamed with Usher, Justin Bieber, Nas and, most recently, Britney Spears for the Top 5 electro-pop hit “Scream & Shout.” Even his one commercial misfire, 2007’s Songs About Girls, was a precursor to the marriage of dance and pop. “I was a little too ahead of my time on that one,” he has admitted, and his long-awaited next release #willpower, also is bound to surprise.

     

  • Timbaland

    Producer

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Missy Elliott, Ludacris and Snoop Dogg are just a few who've benefited from the golden ear of 40-year-old Timothy Z. Mosley, aka Timbaland. OneRepublic's career took a new trajectory after their "Apologize" remix appeared on Timbaland's 2007 Shock Value. (Vocalist Ryan Tedder admits, "Your first single should never be that big.") Timbaland's work with Justin Timberlake on his 2006 smash FutureSex/LoveSounds netted three Top 5 singles, including the No. 1 "SexyBack." As the Virginia native looks to repeat that success with Timberlake's "Suit & Tie," the groundwork for future hits also is being laid in a just-inked deal with Jay-Z's Roc Nation.

     
     
  • The Smeezingtons

    Songwriters/Producers

    From left: Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars and Ari Levine
    From left: Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars and Ari Levine
    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    The team behind Bruno Mars' golden touch is a true tale of working Los Angeles musicians coming together. As a producer looking to work with new songwriters, Ari Levine opened his cramped Hollywood recording studio to anyone in need of a space. Phillip Lawrence was the first guest at LevCon Studios and returned later with partner Bruno Mars.

    The three clicked, and, says Levine, "Everything started getting better and better the more we worked together." Today the trio, who took on the name The Smeezingtons, is responsible for Mars' many chart-toppers including "Just the Way You Are," "Grenade" and, most recently, "Locked Out of Heaven," along with his featured roles on B.o.B.'s "Nothin' on You," Travie McCoy's "Billionaire" and Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa's "Young, Wild & Free," as well as Cee-Lo Green's game-changing "F— You." Most their songs start as cathartic freestyle jams, Lawrence says, "and we always find that we still do our best work in our little shack of a studio… That’s where we find our magic." 

     

  • Ryan Tedder

    Singer/Songwriter/Producer

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    For multitasking OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder, in-demand producer and award-winning songwriter, hits fall from the sky. Okay, maybe not literally, but the hitmaker does find the many hours spent on flights as prime writing time. And inspiration can come from anywhere. Take, for example, the 2007 mega-hit he produced and penned with Jesse McCartney for Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love,” one of the top-five-selling songs of the decade. "I’m pretty sure I said, ‘What would Prince do right now?’”

    Since then, Tedder has amassed co-writes on hits by Adele (“Rumor Has It”), Beyoncé (“Halo”) and Kelly Clarkson (“Already Gone”), the latter two ballads born of his love and respect for the work of Diane Warren and David Foster. Still, he notes, “It’s always more fun for your own band to have a hit” (1R’s latest “Feel Again” hit No. 8 on the Adult pop charts, while their new single, the Swedish House Mafia-inspired “If I Lose Myself,” is already charting in the Top 10 in Europe). With more than 40 credits to his name, you’d think Tedder might run out of ideas. To the contrary, the multi-hyphenate, who is working with future star Birdy and fellow Denver residents Churchill, explains: “With iPhones, nobody has an excuse for writer’s block. If you’re at Whole Foods getting your green tea extract and you have a melody, you just drop it into your voice memo and save it for later.” Who knew pop and produce would be so intertwined.

    Read Ryan Tedder's full Q&A

     

  • Benjamin 'Benny Blanco' Levin

    Songwriter/Producer

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    At this point, it's fair to call Benny Blanco a pop prodigy. At 24, Dr. Luke's once apprentice has come into his own with 15 No. 1 singles to his name. Last year alone, the Virginia native scored with Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa's "Payphone," Ke$ha's "Die Young" and Rihanna's "Diamonds." Blanco's career kicked off in high school, when, while commuting to New York on weekends to study under producer Disco D, he connected with young art rapper Spank Rock and teamed up to create the underground hit "Bangers & Cash." That album helped bring his skills to the attention of Dr. Luke, who recruited the wunderkind to the mainstream. Since being recruited by Luke, Levin has become a main conspirator in Katy Perry's, Ke$ha's and Adam Levine's camps, with a role in nearly all of their hits.

     

  • Bonnie McKee

    Singer/Songwriter

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Bonnie McKee's chameleonic hair color her wildly divergent writing styles, which have produced massive pop hits for artists like Katy Perry (“Teenage Dream,” “Last Friday Night,” California Gurls,” “Part of Me,” “Wide Awake”), Britney Spears (“Hold It Against Me”), Rita Ora (“How We Do”) and Ke$ha ("C’Mon") -- and that's just in the last three years. The California native, who's repped by Pulse Management, turned to songwriting after her 2004 debut solo album tanked, and today, mainly partners with producers Dr. Luke and Max Martin, who helped transform her career. “It kept going up step by step by step where the names kept getting bigger and the sessions started getting more real,” McKee says, noting that Perry’s four million-selling “California Gurls” feels like her first real hit.

    Now McKee, 29, has another shot at being a solo artist. LA Reid signed her to Epic Records last spring and she’s nearly finished with a solo album she describes as “what Blondie would do in 2013.” Meanwhile McKee has been working with Cobra Starship, Glee's Lea Michele and is prepping for Perry’s next album. “I’m always writing because I’m always inspired,” she says. “The whole world is full of song titles.”

     

  • Stargate

    Producers

    Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, left, and Tor Erik Hermansen
    Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, left, and Tor Erik Hermansen
    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    After seven years of pumping out Euro-hits for the likes of S Club 7, Blue and Samantha Mumba, Norwegian-based production team Stargate (Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen) finally broke ground on U.S. soil when Ne-Yo’s "So Sick" shot to the top of Billboard's Hot 100. "Ne-Yo wrote the lyrics in 20 minutes, and the moment he sang it back to us was the moment that we knew we had our first real hit," Hermansen recalls. "We came to America very humble and we didn't come to conquer. We weren't sure if we really had what it took to make it on U.S. radio."

    History would prove otherwise, with Stargate laying the beats for tracks including Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music," Katy Perry's "Firework" and Wiz Khalifa's Super Bowl 2012 anthem "Black and Yellow." "They're all different and we love them all for different reasons," says Hermansen, declining to pick favorites. But cursory observation suggests that Rihanna has been their biggest success story, with nine top 10 hits in five years. Among them: "Unfaithful," "Rude Boy," "What's My Name?" and "S&M." "We've seen her grow up from this 17-year-old, wide-eyed girl to a worldwide superstar," says Hermansen. "That is the main reward, I would say, in addition to just doing decoration of her music."

    Stargate's Complete Q&A

     
  • Ne-Yo

    Songwriter/Producer/Executive

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    These days, the fact that multiple titles accompany Ne-Yo’s name is entirely fitting of a singer who’s truly become pop-R&B royalty. Over a decade after being dropped by one storied major label (Columbia), he’s now running the A&R department of another (Motown) while simultaneously racking up hits for everyone from Pitbull (“Give Me Everything”) to Young Jeezy (“Leave You Alone”). At the same time, Ne-Yo is notching Top 10 singles for himself. Most recently, “Let Me Love You,” a tune he co-wrote with Sia that’s currently No. 24 on Billboard’s Hot 100. 

    Curiously, his career started with a song of the same name, which spent nine weeks at No. 1. “I don't believe in coincidence or accidents,” he says. “Clearly somebody in heaven thought she and I were supposed to write together and ‘Let Me Love You’ was the end result.” Indeed, for Ne-Yo, it’s all about gut reaction when it comes to launching a hit -- from his decision whether to hold onto a song or give it to another artist (“The song kind of picks its own owner,” Ne-Yo says with Zen-like clarity, admitting it also comes down to who’s paying for studio time) to coming up with that undeniable hook. Says Ne-Yo: “Think about Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ -- that song isn't even in English! But there's something about it that makes you get up and want to do the damn dance! The way a song makes you feel is what makes a hit.”

    Read Ne-Yo's full Q&A here.

     
  • Daniel Glass

    Executive

    Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    The success of the indie-run label Glassnote Records and its roster of mainstream-breakout acts such as Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, Two Door Cinema Club and The Temper Trap all speaks volumes to its founder Daniel Glass. The former president of EMI and Universal started the company in 2007, he says, in the tradition of Chrysalis (where he was formerly Senior Vice President), Island or A&M Records with "a culture unto ourselves." Glassnote's emphasis was to "sign the best live bands, support them, love them, nurture them, pay them, and hope that they make the best records possible," Glass says. "And when they make those records, get them the exposure they deserve." [pullquote]

    Keeping their roster slim, while focusing on media outreach, Glass and his company have taken a personalized approach with some of rock's biggest acts and it's proven effective. For example, the label's biggest acts, Mumford & Sons and Phoenix, have proven radio hits that cross multiple formats -- you're just as likely to hear Mumford's "I Will Wait" on NPR as you are on a commercial rock station like KROQ. But it wasn't without due diligence and patience. Says Glass: "Imagine taking an alternative rock band with a banjo and the F-word to radio. And we did it. But you wouldn't have wanted to be here for the first 90 days, it wasn't pleasant. Every one of our records that have been successful were torture in the beginning."

     

  • Diplo

    Producer

    Shane McCauley

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    “Whose stupid idea was this?” It is midway through Diplo’s Trap Hawk Down tour, and the 34-year-old Grammy nominee for producer of the year is wondering what led him to spin sets in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Atlantic City and New York City -- in 12 hours or less. The idea, of course, was his. And he sold out all four shows. If you don’t recognize Diplo’s name, you’ll now know his work. Born Thomas Wesley Pentz, he put his off-kilter touch on Justin Bieber’s “Thought of You,” Bruno Mars’ “Money Make Her Smile” and Usher’s “Climax.” Diplo’s set, like his producing style, is a whirl of reggae, rap, pop, house, baile funk and dubstep -- an aesthetic he honed working with M.I.A. (He’s behind her buoyant single “Paper Planes,” which scored him his first Grammy nomination in 2008.) Since then, he’s worked with everyone from Beyonce to 2 Chainz to No Doubt. “I’m always doing tours and working and traveling,” says the charismatic globetrotter. “I’m different than the other producers because I’m always out in the street.”

     

  • Claude Kelly

    Singer/Songwriter

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Like his native New York City, Claude Kelly’s resume is a virtual melting pot -- of pop. Be it Miley Cyrus' “Party In The USA,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2009, or Bruno Mars’ 2010 chart-topper “Grenade” or Jessie J’s inescapable “Price Tag,” chances are, you’ve been singing along to Kelly’s lyrics. The 32-year-old Berklee College of Music grad says the strangest place he's heard his songs was "in church! I've heard gospel versions of 'Grenade.' It's flattering, but are you really singing a sex/love song in church?"

     
  • Jeff Bhasker

    Producer/Songwriter

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    “The design element in music is important,” says hip-hop and R&B specialist Jeff Bhasker, “but it’s important to have heart and soul, too, to bring both together. Tapping in to an artist, collaborating, getting a good vocal, I focus on that more than anything.” Bhasker’s career got fast-tracked in 2008, when Kanye West hired the talented but little-tested Berklee grad as his music director, and he’s been intimately involved in Yeezy’s various projects ever since.

    Working with West catapulted the 28-year-old floppy-haired Socorro, N.M., native into collaborations with the likes of Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, Drake and Beyonce, but that run of hits was merely a warm-up for a spectacular 2012, as Bhasker stepped outside his comfort zone to produce fun.’s Some Nights. The yield: an RIAA-certified platinum album, collective sales of more than 10 million tracks according to NielsenSoundScan (among them: radio smash “We Are Young”), and five Grammy nominations for Bhasker, including one for Producer of the Year. “I never thought that I’d be able to find my niche and become successful at it and be in the music industry, quote-unquote, but still have the confidence to express myself on my own terms,” says Bhasker. “I have to credit Kanye, who’s the perfect example of all that. I’ve tried to walk in his shoes.”

     
  • Adam Anders

    Producer

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    "There's never a song that's too hard to arrange," the Sweden-born Anders, 37, has said of his freakish ability to remix, well, anything into an instant iTunes hit. With more than 51 million songs and 13 million albums sold worldwide, Anders, guided by Glee co-creator Ryan Murphy and music supervisor PJ Bloom, has placed the Fox show's cast in such solid-gold company as Rihanna and Lady Gaga. The actors can now say they've performed the most singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart -- 203 tracks -- surpassing records by Elvis Presley and The Beatles. Anders, who produced 2012's Rock of Ages soundtrack (yes, he helped teach Tom Cruise how to sing), recently oversaw yet another Glee milestone: On Jan. 30, the Fox series, in its fourth season, recorded its 500th musical performance -- the Isley Brothers classic "Shout."

     
  • Pharrell Williams

    Producer

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Over the past year, you could hear Williams’ idiosyncratic touch in releases from Rick Ross, Wiz Khalifa, T.I., Usher and R&B breakout Frank Ocean, who scored six Grammy nominations for his solo debut, Channel Orange. “I wanted to know what a singer was doing with the Odd Future [hip-hop collective]. It had to be interesting,” says the sometimes N.E.R.D. frontman, and one-half of the producing duo The Neptunes.

    Curiosity has always fuelled Williams’ pursuits, which has more recently led him to Hollywood: writing music for the animated movie Despicable Me 2 and sitting in with veteran composer Hans Zimmer as he scores Superman: Man of Steel. (“He is the king,” Williams says reverentially, of the nine-time Oscar nominee.) Somehow Williams has managed to shoehorn these projects around his day job.

    In addition to producing tracks for upcoming releases from Nelly, Jay-Z, B, and her sister Solange Knowles, he’s also been collaborating with Miley Cyrus to mold the sound of her fourth solo album, which he describes as “having hip hop at the heart of it… but she’s [still] a Tennessee girl.” Like, is there anyone he wouldn’t work with? “Yeah, for sure! But it wouldn’t be so becoming for me to go here,” he says, laughing. “I see things in people that sometimes other people don’t get. But I do say ‘No’ more than I say, ‘Yes.’”

     
  • RedOne

    Producer/Songwriter

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    If music truly is a universal language, then Morocco-born, French-speaking RedOne (ne Nadir Khayat) might very well be the human embodiment of the pop lexicon. The 40-year-old Grammy-winning producer, songwriter and founder of 2101 Records has become a force on the Billboard pop charts, where he was the top producer of 2009 for his work with Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Akon, Sean Kingston, Enrique Iglesias and more. “I’m influenced by the world because I’m always traveling,” he says. “I’ve just been in Hong Kong, Dubai, Thailand, Morocco, France, Holland, Sweden, so I’m listening to everything everywhere.” And each one those far-off locales can inspire a song. Take one of Lady Gaga’s biggest hits. “We were in Ibiza, Spain and suddenly the vibe felt like we should write something that had ‘Alejandro,’” says RedOne. Or maybe that was the wine talking.

    First Hit: “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga (2008)

    Last Hit: “Dance Again” by Jennifer Lopez (2012)

     
  • 'Big' Jon Platt

    Executive

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Publishing’s creative pied piper is the beloved “Big” Jon Platt, nicknamed for his size (6-foot-8) and stature along with his teddy-bear demeanor. Encouraged to try the music business by iconic rapper Chuck D, the former Denver DJ spent 17 years at EMI Music Publishing, during which he signed Drake, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris and Jay-Z, among many others. “Empire State of Mind,” the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys 2009 hit which spent five weeks at No. 1 and went on to sell 5 million copies, would not exist without the talent-nurturing prowess of Platt, who paired the song’s two writers together.

    Where publishing’s so-called “mailbox money” is concerned, Platt is widely credited for exponentially raising hip-hop’s profile and profit margin. “I'd be lying if I said I was the first person to sign hip-hop songwriters to publishing deals, but I think I was the first music publisher to care about those songwriters and treat them the same way that a country songwriter or a huge pop writer might be treated… and it built a whole business,” says Platt, who in Sept. 2012 joined Warner/Chappell as president of creative. His philosophy: “It's a service first business and that's what's gotten me to where I am.”

     
  • Sia

    Singer/Songwriter

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Australian musician Sia (nee Sia Furler) kicked off her career as a solo artist in the late 1990s, but it’s really been her collaborations with artists like Christina Aguilera, David Guetta and Flo Rida that have recently solidified her as an integral part of contemporary pop music. The 37-year-old singer has released five solo albums since 1997, including her most recent effort We Are Born, and broke into songwriting in 2010 on Aguilera’s Bionic (Aguilera also enlisted Sia as a mentor on The Voice’s first season). “Titanium,” Sia’s 2011 collaboration with Guetta, bowed at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has gone double platinum while Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones,” which Sia appeared on as featured vocalist, is nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2013 Grammys. Plus, Sia is responsible for penning “Diamonds,” the flagship single off Rihanna’s recent album Unapologetic, and has a co-write and featured vocal on Tegan and Sara’s upcoming album Heartthrob.

     
  • Mark Ronson

    Producer

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    The London-based producer behind Amy Winehouse’s Back in Black (which has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide) is almost single-handedly responsible for the recent resurgence of female soul singers, including Adele and Duffy. As such, 37-year-old Mark Ronson has become a go-to producer for artists looking to switch-up their sound. Last year, his polished work could be heard all over Bruno MarsUnorthodox Jukebox, and its jaunty, indie-rock-lite single, “Locked Out of Heaven.” “Bruno was so adamant about keeping the music progressive,” says Ronson, a former DJ. “That got me back into programming beats again.” You can expect to hear more of those beats on the fourth solo album he’s currently writing. He will not, however, say if Paul McCartney’s new album, which he helped produce, will take on a patina of hip-hop. “I’m hesitant to talk about it,” he says. “But I can say that it’s just a master class in production.” How does Ronson land all these amazing gigs? “Maybe two times out of 100 someone came through management or the label. But really, all the people I’ve worked with, I’ve met by coincidence or through friends,” he says. “That’s pretty much how my entire career has gone up to this point.”

     
  • Mike Caren

    Executive/Producer/Songwriter

    Mike Caren, left, and Flo Rida
    Mike Caren, left, and Flo Rida
    Emily Shur

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Calling Mike Caren a hitmaker doesn’t give him enough credit -- hit whisperer is more like it, scouting out yet-to-break styles and sounds and ushering them into the Top 40.

    When Southern rap was largely seen as the province of regional independent imprints, Caren A&R’d his first hit single for Trick Daddy. A half-decade later, he signed T.I. to Atlantic, a partnership that triggered the Southern takeover of the charts during the 00s. “As soon as there is a chorus that you can’t get out of your head, I know it’s a hit,” says Caren, now president of worldwide A&R for Warner Music Group. “A chorus you wake up singing is like a pot of gold.”

    The 35-year old innately understands the demands of both artists and executives. As a producer and songwriter, his name has loomed in the credits of T.I.’s Grammy-winning, “Swagga Like Us,” Asher Roth’s platinum-certified, “I Love College,” Kanye West’s “Hell of a Life,” and an array of multi-platinum Flo Rida singles.

    “He’s got great knowledge of the past and present and is always looking to the future with creating sounds,” Flo Rida says. “I just love to see his emotions when he tells me a record is going be smash because he’s never failed me.”

    While jumping from label to label is industry norm, Caren has had astonishing longevity at Atlantic. Hired at 17 as the manager of rap marketing for label subsidiary, Big Beat, he’s ascended the ranks to oversee hit streaks from Wiz Khalifa, Trey Songz, Bruno Mars, and Lupe Fiasco. He also presided over the construction of five studios at Atlantic’s Hollywood offices, offering an improved feedback loop and ease of collaboration for its artists.

    “Having worked in a different part of the business gets you respect from the artists, makes you compassionate for their struggles, and offers a different set of relationships to solve problems and create opportunities,” Caren says. “I try to be a student of the culture and at heart, I’m still a fan.”

     
  • Noah '40' Shebib

    Producer/Engineer

    Getty Images

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    "We focus on special moments as opposed to what the tempo is or how it's gonna move at the club" -- that's how Shebib describes his approach to producing Drake's smooth, steady grooves. The Toronto natives have worked together nearly all of their professional lives, and through their deal with Universal and Cash Money Records they have complete control over their recordings. "These labels are looking to Drake to tell them what to do," says Shebib, 29. "This is extremely rare, and we are blessed."

    Noah "40" Shebib's Full Q&A

     
  • Patrick Moxey

    Executive

    Jen Maler

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Last year was a huge one for Patrick Moxey, 46, the founder of Ultra Music: His electronic-music label was behind five Grammy-nominated songs (including Calvin Harris’ “Let’s Go,” featuring Ne-Yo) and albums (among them, Deadmau5’s >Album Title Goes Here<). And just a few weeks ago, a lucrative deal with Sony vaulted him into a more expansive universe, by opening Ultra’s artists up to the international market and talent pool.

    So how did this former rap-music exec who worked with Jay-Z and Kelis come to realize there’s untapped lucre in EDM? “I was watching how alive hip-hop was,” he says. “It was a real culture, a movement. That’s exactly what I started noticing in the club scene. It’s stuff that’s buzzing really naturally. Most people connect with it through live shows.”

    Seventeen years after he started Ultra, its artists have evolved from grassroots phenoms to pop-chart secret weapons. “What’s so interesting is that a lot of mainstream artists are coming to our guys,” says Moxey. In particular, he’s found crossover success with Harris (Rihanna, Mary J. Blige) and Benny Benassi (Madonna, Chris Brown). “Electronic music is continuing to morph. We’re seeing growth happening right now in trap, hard style, deep house. It’s like this living organism that’s constantly changing and adapting.”


     

  • Alex Da Kid

    Producer/Songwriter

    Alex Da Kid (left) with Imagine Dragons' Dan Reynolds
    Alex Da Kid (left) with Imagine Dragons' Dan Reynolds

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    As genre-hopping, chart-topping producers go, few have had as quick an ascent as England's Alex Da Kid (ne Alexander Grant). From the Eminem and Rihanna smash “Love The Way You Lie” to Diddy-Dirty Money’s “Coming Home” to Dr. Dre’s triumphant comeback track “I Need a Doctor,” it’s no wonder Interscope head Jimmy Iovine saw something in the Bristol-raised producer that made him say, “Give Da Kid his own label.”

    And with that, KIDinaKORNER Records was born in 2011. But in forecasting new trends in pop, Alex Da Kid, 31, continually looks back to previous works like “Airplanes,” a Top 10 hit in more than 20 countries for Paramore’s Hayley Williams and B.o.B. It’s a song that meant a lot to him because it showed that you can mix “an emerging rock band with an emerging rap artist,” he explains.

    Blending the two genres has enabled Grant, who has worked with some of rap’s biggest names, to become one of the hottest alternative producers. To wit: Las Vegas’ Imagine Dragons, who Grant signed and produced, currently hold three entries on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. Grant welcomed the challenge: “It might not have been the right thing for a predominant hip-hop producer to find a rock band as his second signing, but to me, alternative music is the future of popular music.”

     
  • Henry 'Cirkut' Walter

    Songwriter/Producer

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    As Dr. Luke's right-hand man and main production partner, Henry "Cirkut" Walker's star is rising. A banner 2012, during which he had credits on Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” and Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been,” both out in the month of May, he says, marked a milestone the 26-year-old only hopes to repeat one day: "Having two songs with two of the biggest artists in the world out at once." With fingerprints all over Ke$ha's Warrior, as well as a number of songs on Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded and Adam Lambert's Trespassing, Walker says the fundamentals of hard work and discipline, without taking things too seriously, have been key to his ascent. "It definitely feels great to have a hit," he says. "There is something to be said for a song being recognized universally and appealing to such a wide variety of people and having such a massive impact that you just can’t deny."

     
  • Alex Patsavas

    Music Supervisor

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    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Nearly two decades into her career, pioneering music supervisor Alex Patsavas, 44, still doesn’t distinguish between work and play, and for a very good reason: the curator of the music for the Twilight franchise, the new film Warm Bodies and such TV series as Mad Men, Grey’s Anatomy and The O.C. is inseparable from her target audience. “I’m a TV watcher, I’m a woman in my 40s and I grew up listening to modern music,” she explains.

    Patsavas has evidenced impeccable taste and judgment while essentially serving as a filter for potentially appealing new music and the debuting CW series The Carrie Diaries, set in the mid-’80s, has enabled her to come full circle as an inveterate music fan. “I get to pitch a lot of songs that I was attached to in high school, so it’s really fun,” she says. What’s more, a series of covers slated for the show pairing up-and-coming bands and vintage songs gives her the opportunity to connect her teenage passions to her current ones.

    Patsavas’ other focus at the moment is her Chop Shop label, which she has just moved from Atlantic Records to Universal Music. But her primary function -- “introducing acts to an audience that may not discover them otherwise” -- hasn’t changed over the years. “There’s also that special thing of pairing a song to characters and a storyline that audiences are invested in,” Patsavas points out. “That factor can’t be ignored, because it creates an atmosphere of receptivity.”

     
  • Fernando Garibay

    Producer

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    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    When he was still newly hired at Interscope some five years ago, Mexican producer Fernando Garibay, who won't divulge his age, was given the ultimate test: make Lady Gaga’s songs sound like a million bucks. With Born This Way, Garibay delivered as the album sold more than two million copies and spawned massive hits like the title track, “Edge of Glory” and “You and I.” Amazingly, he recorded most of it on the road and in less than ideal spaces, like backstage or on the tour bus. As it turned out, a jack-of-all-trades was just the ticket. “Whether it was writing or producing a song with her or making sure the vocals are right, whatever she needed,” he says. It was like, ‘You want me to be responsible for the biggest artist on the planet? Cool.’”

     

  • Tyler 'T-Minus' Williams

    Producer

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    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    The 24-year-old wunderkind Tyler "T-Minus" Williams from Ajax, Ontario, was getting attention for producing big beats before he was even old enough to drink. Breaking out in 2006 with fellow Canuck Drake's first single, "Replacement Girl," Williams had his first Top 10 hit in 2009 with Ludacris' Grammy-nominated "How Low" and has since returned to Billboard's Hot 100 nine more times. Following his work on three of the five singles off Drake's lauded 2011 album Take Care and his featured performances on Nicki Minaj's "Moment 4 Life" and Lil Wayne's "She Will," teamed up with Kendrick Lamar for his chart-topping album good kid, m.A.A.d city including single "Swimming Pools (Drank)." Next up: the delayed Lady Gaga collaboration "Partynauseous." Still Drake's go-to guy, expect more Williams-crafted beats on his next release, as well as upcoming work with Big Sean and Pusha

    First Hit: “How Low” by Ludacris (2009)

     

  • Ester Dean

    Songwriter/Actress/Singer

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    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Dean's achievements are eclectic. While she has been a hitmaking songwriter for years -- getting her first No. 1 with Rihanna's "Rude Boy" in 2010 and penning Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" -- in 2012 she did voice work for Ice Age: Continental Drift and co-starred in the Anna Kendrick musical comedy Pitch Perfect.

    STORY: Hitmaker Ester Dean on Songwriting, Fighting and Eating Hot Dogs (Q&A)

    "[This year] is me really wanting to show myself as a whole, in a raw form," says Dean, 28, who in January dropped the first single from her yet-untitled solo album, "How You Love It," featuring Missy Elliott.

     

  • Savan Kotecha

    Songwriter/Producer

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    The 34-year-old X Factor vocal producer -- and mastermind behind Britney Spears' "If U Seek Amy," Justin Bieber's "Beauty and a Beat" and multiple One Direction hits including 2012's "Live While We're Young" -- is currently in the studio with the series' fourth-place finishers Emblem3, executive producing their debut album under his newly formed Syco imprint, Mr. Kanani.

    But while Kotecha might be new to the label-head thing, he's a vet when it comes to creating infectious pop pleasures. Among his crowning achievements? One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful," which Kotecha wrote for his wife when she complained of feeling "ugly." "I was like, 'No, you look beautiful. You don't know how beautiful you look,' and then I was like, 'Oh crap! That's a good song. Hold on!' and I wrote it down," he recalls with a chuckle. "That's a couple of Valentine's Days and Christmas presents already there. If I ever forget one day, I'll just be like, 'Hey, remember 'What Makes You Beautiful'?"

    Savan Kotecha's Full Q&A

     

  • Chauncey 'Hit-Boy' Hollis

    Producer/Rapper/Executive

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    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Skipping high school parties to build beats paid off for Chauncy Hollis, the 25-year-old producer and rapper who goes by Hit-Boy. Through a well-received MySpace friend request to Atlanta producer Polow da Don early on, the Fontana, California native hooked up with Pharrell Williams and then Kanye West -- a connection that has proven paramount. Ever since West recruited him to produce his G.O.O.D. Friday Series' "Christmas in Harlem" single, Hollis has been on the superstar's speed dial, working on West and Jay-Z's monster hit "Niggas in Paris," G.O.O.D. Music's "Clique" and A$AP Rocky's breakout "Goldie." Will.i.am, Britney Spears and M.I.A. are now hip to Hollis’ talents too, and he’s breaking out with a rap career under his own Interscope-backed label, Hits Since '87, where he's also developing his own acts. From hard street rap to pop records, Hollis says. "I'm trying to just expand the culture and show people that you can come from the middle of nowhere and make it, writing very quality music that the world will love."

     

  • Abel 'The Weeknd' Tesfaye

    Singer/Songwriter/Producer

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    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    No label backing, no interviews, just a three-part series of heartfelt mix tapes that blurred his identity: That was how 22-year-old Canadian Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, caught the attention of fellow Torontonian Drake, who tweeted a link to Tesfaye's song "Wicked Games" in 2011 and in turn massively expanded his fanbase. Last year, Tesfaye returned the favor with a featured role, production and writing credits on Drake's "Crew Love" followed in short order by Wiz Khalifa's "Remember You." The up-and-comer also broke from the indie pack by signing with a major, Universal's Republic Records, and releasing his Trilogy album via his own label XO.

     
  • Ron Perry

    Executive

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    As major publishers urgently expand their rosters, Songs Music Publishing gets increasingly strategic with the talent they acquire. Ron Perry, the company’s president and head of A&R, is the maestro curating that line-up. A former executive at EMI until 2004, his follow-through is vigilant: After signing songwriters, he makes it his business to forge smart collaborations for them -- greasing the wheels for radio play and licensing deals (Gucci, Nissan, Victoria’s Secret). Last year, he paired his songwriters Matt Theissen (Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson) and Brian Lee (Lady Gaga) with Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen to yield the top 10 hit “Good Time.”

    Someone who is an “artist, writer, and [licensing] sync machine is the best thing for me,” he says. “Q-Tip does that, so does Dev.” And he’s not afraid to get incestuous. Perry merely dipped into his roster to put the latter, the electropop singer who scored big hits with “In the Dark” and “Like a G6,” in a room with Grammy-nominated producer Diplo (Beyoncé, Usher) and DJ Mustard (2 Chainz, Tyga) for her upcoming release. “Years ago, publishers hustled for records,” says Perry, who was born in Israel and raised in New Jersey. “Diplo had every option under the sun. But he took less money to sign with us because he wants someone who’s going to wake up every day and think about how to further his career.”

     

  • Mark Pitts

    Executive

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    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Equal parts A&R man and guidance counselor, Mark Pitt’s skill set stems from his days as a manager to Notorious B.I.G. and Nas. “Half that job is finding the music,” says the mild-mannered guru whose lofty titles include president of Urban Music at RCA Records and CEO of Bystorm Entertainment, “but the other half is motivating them.” In 2012 alone, Pitts assembled the production-songwriting team that worked on No. 1 albums from Usher (Looking 4 Myself) and Chris Brown (Fortune). But his true bragging rights come from breaking R&B singer Miguel, whose 2010 debut, All I Want Is You, underperformed. Pitts’ strategy for the follow-up? “Don’t mess with the formula,” he says, noting that he even re-recruited All I Want co-producer Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse, Nas) to refine Miguel’s sound.

    The result, Kaleidescope Dream, snagged Miguel five Grammy nominations. Meanwhile, his single “Adorn” captured the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart for an unprecedented 11 weeks, before winning enviable crossover appeal with the indie-rock crowd. “He wants to be different,” explains Pitts. “I always tell Miguel, ‘I know there’s a lot you’re trying to do. But we still have a lot of albums to make.’” The exec’s next challenge: making another album for the perennially embattled Brown. “People have been focused more on his life than his music,” he says. “Where we’re starting is going to be a different direction musically. My goal is to make an incredible album.”

     

  • Michael 'Mike Will Made It' Williams

    Producer

    This story first appeared in the Feb. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    At 23, Michael Williams -- under the name Mike WiLL Made It -- broke out early in the Southern rap scene, sending beats to Gucci Mane and Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group label. Now, the Atlanta native is one of the genre's most in-demand maestros, thanks to his proven propensity for hit-ready rhythms. After early work with 2 Chainz and Waka Flocka Flame, Williams strutted onto the hip-hop and rap charts with the Meek Mill's Rick Ross-featuring "Tupac Back." Since, he's stuck around strong with Future's "Turn on the Lights," 2 Chainz and Drake's "No Lie", and Juicy J's "Bandz A Make Her Dance" with cameos by Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz -- all of which were certified gold last year. And when Kanye West was looking for the a beat to "Mercy," the Grammy-nominated track that became the lead single to his G.O.O.D. Music crew's Cruel Summer, he rang Williams to craft it and help rake in sales of more than 2 million.

     

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