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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Everybody's a one-hit wonder. If they're lucky.

A few years ago I was talking to Sting's publisher. He told me that if he went to any city in Europe, checked into a hotel and turned on the radio, he could guarantee that within a couple of hours he would hear a song written by Sting. What's more, he knew which song it would be: "Every Breath You Take".

This idea, that even a career which was rich in hits, was really about one hit, fascinates me and seems yet another illustration of how success in the music business can be rooted in things completely beyond the artist's control.

I spoke to Hugh Cornwell at Louder Than Words yesterday in Manchester and put this to him. Was The Stranglers' "Golden Brown", which I'd heard on a radio in a shop yesterday, his "Every Breath You Take"? He confirmed it was. "In terms of PRS, it's worth all the other songs put together."

Maybe this has always been the case but as you've got more and more radio stations programming music from a smaller and smaller repertoire, much of which is machine-selected, it's surely going to be more so. Everybody's a one-hit wonder. If they're lucky.