On November 9th, the Berklee Music Business/Management Department, in collaboration with the Songwriting Department, had the pleasure of hosting Sam Hollander, a multi-platinum songwriter and author of the book 21-Hit Wonder: Flopping My Way to the Top of the Charts. Hollander has written with many artists, including Carole King, Panic! At The Disco, blink-182, Katy Perry, One Direction, and Train. He sat down with Professor Ralph Jacodine (Music Business Department) and Assistant Chair Jonathan Perkins (Songwriting Department) to discuss the ups and downs of his songwriting career.
As a child, Hollander was constantly listening to music on records, and he eventually decided to pursue a career as a songwriter and producer. As much as he loved creating music, the beginnings of his career did not go as planned. Hollander spoke about his experience attending college at Temple and NYU, getting signed by a record label, and then getting dropped all in his early twenties. Despite this defeat, he was determined to continue chasing music. He wanted to keep creating music until something clicked, so he took on various gigs such as making song remixes, ringtones, and even Kidz Bop Records. He was determined to make at least one hit, because, as Hollander puts it, “If I have 1 hit, I’ll have 100 hits.” His career really took off after he invested in an opportunity to produce, master, and mix for Fall Out Boy. After his work topped the charts and the record went gold, he gained more opportunities to work with artists like We the Kings, blink-182, and Train. He also shared his creative process with the audience, explaining how he gets up early every morning to brainstorm and write new lyrics, melodies, or even just unique song titles.
Hollander learned a lot throughout the course of his career, and he had lots of wisdom to share with the Berklee community. He talked about music industry trends and advised students to “always keep an eye on where things were progressing and try to stay one step ahead of it.” For the producers, he talked about doing research on the recording artist by watching interviews or reading the press before entering a session. Most importantly, he encouraged solo singer/songwriter students to continue pushing themselves musically, even if it seems like everyone else is succeeding first. In Hollander’s words, “Your moment happens when it’s supposed to happen.”
Read more about Hollander’s journey in the music industry in his new book, 21-Hit Wonder: Flopping My Way to the Top of the Charts, available on Amazon on December 6th. Sam wrote it to help aspiring musicians, songwriters, and producers learn about survival, endurance, hustle, and the importance of laughing even on the worst days of the journey. He is donating 100% of his book proceeds to the charity, Musicians On Call, a nonprofit that brings live and recorded music to the bed-sides of patients in healthcare facilities.
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