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About the book
  • Published: 8 October 2015
  • ISBN: 9781448191017
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 368

The Song Machine

How to Make a Hit

How do you make a song a global smash hit that is guaranteed to make $millions? Read The Song Machine, and find out

How do you make a song into a global smash hit that is guaranteed to make millions?

Read The Song Machine and find out!

From Tin Pan Alley and Motown to Rihanna and Taylor Swift, manufactured music has existed since the record industry began.

But who are the hit-manufacturers that can create a tune that is so catchy, so wildly addictive, that it sticks in the minds of millions of listeners?

In The Song Machine, John Seabrook dissects the workings of this machine, travelling the world to reveal its hidden formulas, and interview its geniuses – ‘the hitmakers’ – at the centre of it all. Hilarious and jaw-droppingly shocking, this book will change how you think and feel about music, as well as how you listen to it.

‘Revelatory, funny, and full of almost unbelievable details’, Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation

‘As addictive as its subject’ Sunday Times

  • Pub date: 8 October 2015
  • ISBN: 9781448191017
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 368

About the Author

John Seabrook

John Seabrook has been a staff writer at the New Yorker since 1993. The author of several books including Nobrow, he has taught narrative non-fiction writing at Princeton University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Praise for The Song Machine

“Revelatory, funny, and full of almost unbelievable details”

Eric Schlosser, author of 'Fast Food Nation'

“As addictive as its subject”

Sunday Times

“A gripping investigation of modern hitmaking… Seabrook’s writing is as sleek and swift as a dolphin”

New Statesman

“This is a fascinating tale about an amazing phenomenon”

Walter Isaacson, author of 'Steve Jobs'

“Seabrook subtly explores not only the insides of a song, but how a song gets inside us”


“Revealing, frightening, funny and unsettling”

Roddy Doyle

“Seabrook’s book takes the reader into a hidden world behind some of the most high-profile cultural products of the era”


“A highly engaging narrative”


“Weaving its way through two-and-a-half decades, one of The Song Machine’s greatest achievements is to situate the pop song within a shifting matrix of technological evolution, diminishing revenue streams, and warring egos”


“Seabrook takes us on a lucid and well-researched tour of the places where modern hits are created”

Peter Clark, Literary Review

“Anyone who wants to understand how the clash of cultures has shaped what we listen to should read this important book. John Seabrook has a marvelous ear for language – and perfect pitch when it comes to music journalism.”

Bob Spitz, author of 'The Beatles: The Biography'

“His work is almost as easy to consume as the songs it discusses – and nearly as addictive.”

Alix Buscovic, Record Collector

“Explains in fascinating detail how pop stars are utterly dependent on the beats and hooks provided by a handful of largely Swedish hitmakers.”

Robert Colvile, Weekly Telegraph

“In The Song Machine, John Seabrook tells of a cutthroat and fascinating industry, where readers discover the gifted musical maestros who orchestrate hit after hit but rarely get their name in print. The narrative shows not just how technology has upended the music business but of how - despite prattle about "the long tail" - just one per cent of artists generate 80 per cent of the industry's profits. This is a story with as many surprises as Game of Thrones.”

Ken Auletta, author of 'Googled: The End of The World as We Know It'

“A revelatory ear-opener, as the music business remains in a state of significant flux.”

Kirkus Reviews

“A sobering peak inside Stockholm’s Cheiron Studios.”

Andy Gill, Independent

“Reveals the formula for modern pop.”

Helen Brown, Daily Telegraph

“An amazing story”

David Hepworth, Week

“· Lodge’s short stories are as witty and surprising as his novels.”

Kate Saunders, The Times

“He seems so perfectly suited to the form… [A] well-observed collection that one wishes was twice as long.”

Carl Wilkinson, Financial Times

“This is a superb analysis of modern pop music.”


“Seabrook has written an interesting book, smearing away some of the gloss and glamour from the music industry, to reveal details of its inner workings… An interesting book overall on a global industry that has as many secrets as glitterballs.”

Paul Cheney, Nudge

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