Wayne Hector, Hit-Making UK Songwriter, Talks One Direction, Nicki Minaj, Streaming Services, More (Q&A)
2012 has so far proved to be quite a year for British songwriter Wayne Hector, who has two songs in this week's Hot 100 - The Wanted's "Glad You Came," which he co-wrote with Steve McCutcheon and Ed Drewett; and Nicki Minaj's "Starships," co-written with Minaj, Carl Falk, Rami Yacoub and RedOne. London-based Hector, who has been signed to Warner/Chappell Publishing since 2010, also contributed two songs to One Direction's record-breaking album Up All Night, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, with 176,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
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In an exclusive interview with Billboard.biz, Hector - who has previously written for Britney Spears, Pussycat Dolls, Susan Boyle, Enrique Iglesias, Def Leppard and Rascal Flatts, and has upcoming credits on projects for Jennifer Lopez and Paloma Faith - discusses the new British boy band invasion and why streaming doesn't offer adequate compensation for songwriters. "No matter how much success you have, every time you get another taste of it, it feels just as good as the first time," he says.
Billboard.biz: "Starships" marks the first time that you have worked with Nicki Minaj. How did that track come about?
Wayne Hector: Basically, it was something that I wrote with Carl [Falk], Rami Yacoub and RedOne in Sweden. We wrote it, originally with different verses, and were all jumping around thinking: 'This is going to be great.' And at some point Red said: 'You know what? This would be great for Nicki Minaj.' He played it to her and she went crazy for it but said: 'Can I just do my verse because it has to be me? And we all thought: 'Why not? We love her.' I'm always happy for an artist [to personalize a track]. Whatever is best for the song and the artist. Especially if you have somebody who has a clear-cut defined image of who they are. You can't really interfere with that and get the best out of them.
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How about writing "Glad You Came," which has proved a massive international hit for U.K. vocal group The Wanted.
That was all done in one session with Steve [McCutcheon] and Ed [Drewett], with us doing what we normally do, just trying out loads of ideas until we hear something that we like. For the bridge, which I really love, I really wanted to do a lyric which ended on one word and that word started the next word. That was the only idea that there was [going in]. It just all fell together really nicely over the course of the last couple of hours.
Given that British boy bands had never previously sold well in the U.S., did you have relatively low expectations for how "Glad You Came" would perform in the States?
We all loved the song and were really happy with the record. And everybody was saying it feels like it's going to be a hit. But in America there hasn't been a big boy band song since Backstreet Boys, so you try to be realistic about it and think to yourself: 'How big a hit can it be? We're not sure.' But definitely not as big as it's become, which is always a great surprise to have.
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You contributed several tracks to One Direction's debut album Up All Night, including the songs "Same Mistakes" and "Everything About You" (co-written with Steve Robson). How involved where the band in that process?
They definitely gave us space, but to be honest, they were really good. Really good. I was quite surprised at how many ideas they had to put towards the songs. They definitely put in their share. When it's that much hype, it's always hard to live up to it. But I know that they work hard at being vocalists and they are trying to be better songwriters as well.
In your opinion, what's the secret to writing a hit song?
Honesty; trying to find something that means a lot to the most people. I think, if you can find that one string of truth, then everybody else will get it too. To me, that is the secret. Saying that, you can never tell what is going to be a hit. Between the writing of the song and the making of it, there are a million different ways that it can go wrong. There's a lot of records that I thought were going to be big that got messed up somewhere in the chain.
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From a songwriting perspective, how do you feel about streaming services and the renumeration that they deliver?
My problem with the streaming services is that I don't feel that writers are properly compensated. You can have 70 million hits on YouTube and get a cheque for £100.00. It's ridiculous when you see the value of YouTube as a company. With the major dip that we're having sales wise, streaming is potentially the best thing going forward, if we can get the monetary situation sorted out. If you play football and a club is bringing a certain amount per year, the club works out what the players should be getting based on the revenue that they bring in. To me, it's no different with streaming. There should be an escalation based on value.
Is it tougher being a songwriter for hire in the current climate?
It's definitely tougher. I was very fortunate that I was already in the game when digital piracy became a problem. Before it was £3.99 ($6.36) a single and now it's £0.69 ($1.10) in some places, so we're talking about a massive drop in prices, and due to piracy it can be a struggle to pick up value elsewhere. And then you have the labels folding into other labels, so there are fewer artists to work on. We're definitely in an interesting period of time.