“When you’re an emerging writer, the toughest thing is getting into the room,” starts Aaron Buckingham, a lead on Spotify’s Songwriter and Publishing Relations team. “Maybe you have some friends from college or school that you wrote songs with, and maybe it grows to someone you form a band with. But to get into rooms with more established writers and on to artists’ radars—that can take a lot of time.”
The process is all too familiar—not just for Aaron, but for burgeoning songwriters looking for an opportunity to shine. Even when a new songwriter possesses undeniable talent, reaching that career breakthrough requires them to navigate an intricate path. And since part of Aaron’s role at Spotify is to unlock opportunities for songwriters and publishers on and off our platform, he goes further than simply helping songwriters and producers get into the room. He and his team construct the room.
Spotify Sessions: A first taste of collaborative songwriting
Spotify Sessions gives rising hitmakers a first taste of professional collaboration. Occasionally themed, always thoughtful, these sessions give songwriters the opportunity to connect with artists, producers, and engineers who are further along in their careers. With specific opportunities for R&B writers and women and non-binary creators, as well as songwriters in our RADAR Songwriters program, we’re using the space to advance marginalized talent.
To date, Spotify has hosted dozens of writing sessions globally that have been attended by an array of the world’s top songwriting and production talent, including Rodney Jerkins, Ink, Leland, Ilsey, Wayne Hector, Ricky Reed, Ina Wroldsen, and Kamille. The results are notable. Stream Dua Lipa’s ethereal dance track “Hallucinate” or 21 Savage’s Grammy-winning “a lot” and you’re hearing the results of a Spotify Session.
“Songwriters are the architects who have built the music industry that we all kind of exist in,” Aaron explains to For the Record. “I’m incredibly passionate about the process of songwriting, particularly by those who aren’t necessarily performers themselves. I personally love how our writing sessions knock down some of the political walls and give people an amazing opportunity to create together, and come with no agenda attached.”
Ines Dunn, a songwriter on the rise
Once the writers get into the room, Aaron’s next job is to understand how Spotify can best amplify their talent, starting by pairing them with fellow writers.
From the beginning, Spotify Sessions has set the stage for a few songwriters’ first collaborative writing workshops. For Aaron, Ines Dunn stands out. “I’d be listening to a new Mimi Webb song or Maisie Peters and look at the songwriter credits and be like, ‘Ines Dunn? Is that the same student who came to our writing camp?’ And it was!”
In 2019, Spotify invited Ines and some of her classmates from the East London Academy of Music to a dance and electronic music writing session at our Noteable Songwriting Studios in London. There they tasted their first collaboration between artist, producer, and songwriter. “Everyone wanted to work with Ines,” remembers Aaron. “She was an immediate star.”
For Ines the experience was her first time workshopping with seasoned songwriters, and it was life-changing. Now she’s a full-time songwriter with credits on Mimi’s and Maise’s recent albums, as well as on Griff’s, METTE’s, and Josie Mann’s. And while songwriting has become part of Ines’s everyday life, the process of coming together with others to write a song in settings like Spotify Sessions continues to be magical.
“Songs are always such a landmark of the time and place and the people that you wrote something with,” she tells For the Record. “I have such strong attachments to the moments when I wrote those songs. As the days go by, you always forget what you did and how much time passed and the funny thing that happened. But I feel like songs really capture the ‘Oh God, and I remember writing that thing in that moment and finding it the funniest thing in the whole world,’ which is really nice because it kind of immortalizes those memories.”
Supporting songwriters from moment to music
After the sessions, there’s more to do, including finding ways to showcase the work using the power of our platform.
“Spotify is well positioned to really connect collaborators from around the world,” Aaron says. “Whether it’s things like having the names and the credits viewable on platform, or with the introduction of Written By playlists and Songwriter Pages, we’re giving anyone who’s listening to music that ability to be able to click into the credits and see the complete discography of a songwriter’s work straight away. That’s great for fans because it gives them more context around the folks who have helped create the music, but also I think it’s super beneficial for the writer in actually unlocking future collaborations.”
We’ve long supported behind-the-scenes moments of music creation through programs like Equalizer. In 2021, we created Noteable as a home for songwriters, producers, and publishers, with resources like Songwriter Pages, Written By playlists, the Songwriters Hub, educational video series, the Created by Women playlist, and much more available. And with five studios, we’re also making in-person sessions even more accessible to creators in more locations around the world. Casa Spotify Medallo is the latest offering for Colombia-based songwriters to hone their craft together.
Similar to RADAR, our RADAR Songwriters program helps develop songwriters on the cusp of greatness. With marketing and editorial content, we’ve helped songwriters in Canada, Mexico, America, Italy, the U.K., and beyond gain industry and audience exposure. Ines Dunn, in fact, is one of the latest RADAR Songwriters, bringing her journey full circle.
“A music career is really borderless now with the impact of streaming. And we’re seeing that in the writing sessions as well,” says Aaron. “We’re seeing writers from America, the U.K., and Sweden write for all these big K-Pop artists. I’d love for Ines Dunn to get opportunities from places as far as Australia or South Korea because an artist’s manager heard her music on one of our playlists.”
Songwriters like Ines don’t necessarily seek out the spotlight, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want—or deserve—it. “For Spotify to kind of give the platform to people who choose not to have a platform is really lovely,” she says. “To know that there are people in the world who don’t know anything about songwriters, but who will know something about someone because of RADAR Songwriters, is really special.”
Catch the songs Ines has helped create on the Written By Ines Dunn playlist.