Dr. Luke: Feeling the Pressure of New Britney Spears Album
The big draw of Thursday's Hollywood Reporter/Billboard Film & TV Music Conference was undeniably producer Dr. Luke, who not only packed the afternoon Q&A session moderated by ASCAP's Randy Grimmett, but got bombarded by throngs of his own fans not a moment after the talk ended. It's a good thing he's spent so much time around megastars like Katy Perry, Ke$ha and Avril Lavigne because he handled the unruly bunch with aplomb, but coming up next is perhaps his most stressful gig yet: as co-executive producer on Britney Spears' forthcoming seventh studio album. Luke's partner? Swedish hitmaker Max Martin, who's been both a mentor and collaborator and has worked with Spears on and off since her 1999 Jive Records debut, ...Baby One More Time. Dr. Luke contributed several tracks to 2008's Circus.
A dream team, no doubt, but with Sony Music seeing a 10 percent drop in sales last quarter, and that's including Usher's platinum-plus Raymond v. Raymond under the LaFace banner, the pressure is most certainly on. "She's such an icon, I don't want to let anyone down," Dr. Luke told THR. "But most importantly, I want to make good music." The LA-based Luke, who's just coming off a repackage of Ke$ha's Animal, says he's just starting to wrap his head around the Britney album now. He anticipates it will be out in early 2011, while an insider tells THR, it will definitely hit stores before March 31, the end of Sony's fiscal year. A Jive Records rep would not comment on a release date or confirm a timeline. Other producer-songwriters said to be working on it include Darkchild and, according to Luke, Montreal newcomer Billboard (listen to a remix Billboard did of Britney's 2009 track "3" at his Myspace page).
Read on for our post-session sit-down with Dr. Luke in a new feature we like to call, Five More Minutes With...
The Hollywood Reporter: We live in such a singles-driven market, do you ever feel guilty for contributing to the fall of the full-length or bemoan the loss of the album?
Dr. Luke: For me, I'm more a fan of the songs than of the artists because often, it's not worth getting the whole album. There's usually a few singles and the rest of it is politics or something. And of course there are exceptions to that. To be honest, there are so many different things floating around now, whether or not streaming is going to work and subscription models and stuff like that. I don't see music going away any time soon, so there will ne people figuring out how to monetize on the music business. But right now it seems like there have been a lot of decisions that haven't been that smart. Like there's a new monopoly where music is a loss leader to sell devices and price isn't dictated by the value of the songs. Like music being a part of Google or Verizon's fiberoptic thing, they don't really give a damn about the music.
THR: Hit songwriters, after they've had their breakout hit, usually experience a wave of popularity, but often end up with a short shelf life. Do you have an appreciation for how fleeting this all could be and are you preparing for it?
DL: Yes. I'm thankful I got here, I don't feel that my moment is ending in 2011 and that's based in stuff that I already know is coming out. I do believe that music will change and has to change in some capacity, and I'll either change and reinvent or sink or swim. If I don't feel that what I'm doing is meaningful, I'll do something else. And I'm aware of that., but things change.
THR: After having so many massive hits, you must be deluged by artists wanting to work with you; how do you decide which projects to take on?
DL: I know this sounds really strange, but I don't really think I have complete control over what I take. You're constantly working with people where you need to get someone on this hook and they say, "OK, I'll do this, but you've got to do this," and then you're with with someone that you wouldn't normally work with. But If it's a debut artist, they have to be just so incredible, otherwise, why? I'd rather be signing my own debut artists.
THR: Do you ever get into bidding war-like situations?
DL: No. There's no amount of money that would make me do something that I didn't want to do. That doesn't happen. But I'm getting more selective.
THR: What other songwriter-producers are exciting you these days?
DL: I really love Stuart Price, he's a great producer and beat maker. Bangladesh, I think he's an amazing producer. Listen to Amelie, Kelis, Luda, that Mario song, "Breakup..." They all have a a unique point of vew. I also really like Swiss Beatz. I think he's just great. I love Benny Blanco, I think he's just one of the greatest producers. I got this guy Billboard, he's going to be doing a bunch of stuff on the new Britney [Spears album] and Kojak... all the producers I've signed, I love, otherwise I wouldn't sign them.
THR: Anything else you can tell us about the Britney record?
DL: Just that I'm excited to be co-executive producing with Max Martin, the person who kind of invented Britney, and to make good music. And she's such an amazing vehicle to getting that music out to a lot of people in every country.